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History of Hygiene
Graphs and Statistics

Graphs and Statistics

Over the last century, Australia's health indicators have shown huge improvements:

  • Death rates from infectious disease have fallen 96%
  • Death rates from respiratory disease have fallen 80%
  • Death rates for children 0-4 have fallen 95%
  • Life expectancy has increased by over 25 years for women, and nearly 24 years for men.

(Source 1)

Sadly, the statistics do not show similar improvement among Indigenous Australians, whose life expectancy is similar to that of Australians a century ago.

Many developing nations also have much lower life expectancies and higher death rates than in Australia today. Table 1 shows the stark difference in life expectancy and mortality rates between Australia and the African Region (as defined by the World Health Organisation) in 2007.

Table 1: Key population health indicators for Australia and WHO African region in 2007.
Table 1: Key population health indicators for Australia and WHO African region in 2007.
Mortality rates are expressed per 1000 live births.(Source 2)

In the African region it is infectious diseases that account for the vast majority - 80% in 2004 - of “years of life lost” (which factors in the age at which deaths occur). Prevalent infectious diseases in Africa include tuberculosis, cholera, measles, leprosy, meningitis, whooping cough and HIV/AIDS.

In Australia, infectious disease deaths have decreased dramatically over the last century. In 2000 infectious disease caused only 18 deaths/100,000 population, compared with 513 deaths/100,000 in 1907. Deaths from respiratory diseases including flu and pneumonia have also declined significantly over the same timeframe.

Figure 1: Causes of death in Australia in 1907 and 2000
Figure 1: Causes of death in Australia in 1907 and 2000. (Source 3)

Figures 2 and 3 confirm this decline of infectious and respiratory disease deaths for children 0-4 years old and across all ages, respectively.

Figure 2: Trends in selected causes of death for children 0-4 in Australia over the last century.
Figure 2: Trends in selected causes of death for children 0-4 in Australia over the last century. (Ref 3)

Figure 3: Trends in selected causes of death for all persons in Australia over the last century.
Figure 3: Trends in selected causes of death for all persons in Australia over the last century. (Ref 3)

Additional graphs suggesting that vaccination alone cannot be responsible for this decline in Australian mortality can be viewed at www.whale.to/vaccines/graph.html. A similar picture for overseas is illustrated by the graphs at www.whale.to/vaccines/decline1.html, and from pages 20 to 26 of “Against Disease: The Impact of Hygiene and Cleanliness on Health”. (Ref 4)

Source 1: AIHW 2005 “Mortality over the twentieth century in Australia: Trends and patterns in major causes of death. Mortality Surveillance Series no. 4

Source 2: World Health Statistics, WHO 2009

Source 3: Figure 1 compiled using figures from AIHW 2005 “Mortality over the twentieth century in Australia: Trends and patterns in major causes of death. Mortality Surveillance Series no. 4. Canberra: AIHW; Figures 2 and 3 compiled from AIHW General Record of Incidence of Mortality (GRIM) Statistics data (www.aihw.gov.au)

Source 4: Aiello, A. E., Larson, E. L., Sedlak, R. 2007, "Against Disease: The Impact of Hygiene and Cleanliness on Health", The Soap and Detergent Association, http://www.againstdisease.com/


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