LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH

England and Wales in 1839

 

Cause of Death
Percentage of total deaths
Consumption (TB)
17.5
Convulsions (probably from fevers)
7.5
Pneumonia
5.4
Typhus
4.6
Debility i.e. weakness
4.5
Dropsy
3.6
Violent/accidental death
3.4
Measles
3.2
Scarlatina
3.0
Small pox
2.7
Whooping cough
2.4
Hydrocephalus
2.3
Gastroenteritis
1.9
Apoplexy (stroke)
1.6
Asthma
1.5
Teething
1.5
Paralysis
1.2
Total from all these causes
68%
Total from infections
>50%

 

Note that convulsions is a symptom not a disease.  Convulsions could be the final stage of a number of fevers.  Infant mortality was often associated with teething as at that time children would be being weaned and exposed to more danger of food poisoning than if breast-fed.  Gastroenteritis could ensue leading to infantile convulsions and death. 


OTHER CAUSES EACH ACCOUNTING FOR LESS THAN 1% OF THE TOTAL

Out of a total of 338,979:
Childbed fever claimed 2913 mothers
Cancer numbers were 2691 but others may have been included under debility, old age and wasting.
Only 130 attributed to starvation.
Intemperance claimed 178 men and 40 women.
Delirium tremens claimed 184 men and 22 women.
Venereal disease is not mentioned as such in 1839 but paralysis is included.  GPI, standing for 'general paralysis of the insane' is encountered on death certificates and indicates the final stage of syphilis.  The term 'Creeping paralysis' is also encountered and is the name formerly given to Multiple Sclerosis.

 

MAIN CAUSES OF DEATH IN ENGLAND AND WALES IN 1839, 1900 AND 1997

Cause of Death 1839 1900 1997
  % of total % of total % of total
Infections
>50 25 1
Respiratory
2 19* 17*
Circulatory
6 14 41
Cancer
1 to 6** 5 25
Injury & Poisoning
3.4 4 3
All others
33-38 35 14
Total deaths 338,979 587,830 558,052

 

* The statistics for 1900 and 1997 include pneumonia under respiratory diseases rather than under infections.
** Probably not correctly diagnosed, and others will be included under wasting, debility, atrophy.

Sources:

Annual Reports of the Registrar General for 1839
Office of National Statistics.

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