Mortality Rates

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.

  • Crude death rate - The average annual number of deaths a year per 1000 of the population.
  • Age specific death rate - This shows death rates per 1000 population by sex for age groups e.g. under 1, 1 - 4, 5 - 15 etc.
  • Life Expectancy - The average number of years to be lived by a group of people born in the same year, if mortality at each age remains constant in the future.
  • Infant Mortality rate - The number of deaths of children under the age of 1 per 1000 live births per year.

Patterns of Global Death Rates

North America, Canada and South America show relatively low death rates. Mexico in particular shows very low death rates. Sub Saharan Africa on the other hand shows very high death rates whilst northern Africa shows lower, but still high, death rates. Most of Europe has a high death rate with Russia having a very high death rate. Afghanistan has an extremely high death rate too, whilst surrounding countries have much lower death rates. India has a surprisingly low death rate as does China.

Factors Effecting Mortality

  • Age distribution - The higher the proportion of old people to young people, the higher the death rate since older people are more likely to die.

  • Gender - Women generally have a higher life expectancy than men, possibly due to the lifestyle or biological differences preventing certain diseases.

  • Occupation - In some countries people may be employed in dangerous occupations increasing the death rate e.g. Timber cutters in America with 105 deaths in 2000.

  • Income - Low income levels correlate to a low life expectancy whilst high income levels correlate with a high life expectancy. This is because a high income allows people to afford medical care, higher standards of living and healthier foods, prolonging their life.

  • Literacy - Areas with high literacy levels have higher life expectancies whereas areas with low literacy rates have low life expectancies. The reasoning behind this is that when people can read & write, they can obtain higher paying jobs and therefore receive a higher income improving their life expectancy. In addition, when people can read they can read information on preventing the spread of disease and basic hygiene standards improving life expectancy.

  • Access to food - Countries with a lack of food have low life expectancies since the people suffer from malnutrition and are more susceptible to diseases due to a weakened immune system increasing the mortality rates.

  • Medical Facilities - Access to vaccination programs helps to prolong life expectancy and prevent the spread of diseases. Equipment such as mosquito nets also help prolong life expectancy. Access to medical clinics and doctors will also help to substantially lower the death rate. Access to and usage of these services is dependant on income and literacy rates however.

Factors Effecting Infant Mortality Rate

Age of Mother, Birth Control and Birth Interval

  • Younger mothers (less than 20 years) giving birth generally results in higher infant mortality rates. The same is true for older women (40 - 49 years).

  • By the 2nd and 3rd child, the infant mortality rate falls due to the women possessing more experience in caring for a child. After 3 children, the IMR begins to increase again as the family is less capable of looking after lots of children.

  • As mothers leave more time between successive babies, the infant mortality rate falls. For example, having a child within 2 years of a previous one results in a IMR of 110 however having a child within 4 years of another results in an IMR of 39.

Sex of Infant

Baby girls are more likely to die from neglect than boys due to the requirement of a boy for work, looking after parents, land etc in some countries.

Education Level of Mother

Areas with high literacy rates generally have low IMRs since mothers are able for sad about child care, what to eat & do during pregnancy and how to stay healthy.

Status of Women In Society

In some cultures, women are required to have children which results in a high IMR due to the increased frequency of births. In addition, in some countries, women aren’t able to see doctors, which can result in a substantially higher IMR.


Countries with a high IMR generally have a low income and countries with a high income generally have a low IMR. Countries with more money have access to better sanitary healthcare, vaccinations and more nutritious food resulting in a reduced IMR.


Equatorial areas with hot climates have higher IMRs due to droughts causing a shortage of food and water for the young. In addition, the hot climates increase the spread of disease again increasing the IMR.

Geographical Location

The location of an area results in varying cultures, income levels etc. which alternates the IMR.