SOME 18th CENTURY MORTALITY & DISEASE STATISTICS
FOR LONDON

 

1. Bills of Mortality from the Gentleman's Magazine

The following figures are from the monthly bills of mortality reported in the Gentleman's Magazine of the period. What we do not have are accurate figures for the population or for the numbers of people in each age group. It is known that for long periods London grew more by an influx of people from the rest of the country than from increased numbers of births. The number of burials is frequently higher than the number of baptisms as shown in Table 2 below. For example in 1735, the number of baptisms was 16,691 and the burials 23,707. Any one year is not necessarily typical of the period as mortality was influenced by the weather, by harvests and by epidemics. A broader view some information on baptisms and burials is shown from five year periods as shown in table 2.

The one area where we have an idea of the population is for infants. If we were to take the baptisms as a measure of births, the population under the age of 2 must have been approximately 33,382 in 1735. There were 9,720 deaths of children under 2, which was 29% of those born. There is no information to show deaths of children under the age of 1, which is the usual measure of infant mortality.

In the 1840s, cities such as Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Ashton and Stockport had infant mortality rates between 25 and 29% of live births and the average for the whole country was 16%. The information from the Registrar General allows us to look at the death rate for those under the age of 2. For example, for males in Lancashire, the county with the highest death rates, 26.8% of children died in the first year of life and 10.8% of the remainder died in their second year of life. Thus, the survivors at age two were 65.3% of those born or loss of 34.7%. If one were to look at males in Cheshire the corresponding figures show a loss of 22.3% in the first year and an additional 7% of the remainder in the following year to give a total loss of 27.7% over a two year period. These figures are very similar to those for London figures on 1735.

Table 1. Deaths in London in Various Age Groups as a Percentage of Total Deaths for the year

 

Age Group 1735 1761 1823
Under 2 41.0 36 28.8
Aged 2 to 5 8.3 7.2 9.3
Aged 5 to 10 3.2 4.0 3.6
Aged 10 to 20 2.9 3.0 3.6
Aged 20 to 30 6.9 7.0 6.6
Aged 30 to 40 9.1 8.5 8.4
Aged 40 to 50 9.1 9.5 9.1
Aged 50 to 60 7.1 8.1 9.4
Aged 60 to 70 5.6 7.4 9.3
Aged 70 to 80 4.2 5.6 7.9
Aged 80 to 90 2.3 2.5 3.2
Aged 90 and over 0.4 1.2 0.5
Total Deaths 23,707 20,318 20,214

 

After this initial view a wider range of years was examined to obtain an average from a bigger sample size. I have not attempted a proper statistical study but the data appears to show little overall change in the pattern of deaths. The fall in the proportion of deaths under 2 between the 1730s and 1760s is probably not significant as the average number of baptisms in the two period were 16,500 per annum for 1735-8 but only 15,641 for the period 1760-1764 leading to about 1700 fewer children under the age of 2. 

Table 2. Deaths in London in Various Age Groups as a Percentage of Total Deaths for the year
Averaged over two periods

Age Group Average 1735-8 Average 1760-64
Under 2 38.08 33.27
Aged 2 to 5 9.20 9.16
Aged 5 to 10 3.38 3.97
Aged 10 to 20 3.03 3.52
Aged 20 to 30 7.70 8.21
Aged 30 to 40 9.23 9.16
Aged 40 to 50 9.0 9.89
Aged 50 to 60 7.79 7.76
Aged 60 to 70 5.91 7.21
Aged 70 to 80 4.18 5.27
Aged 80 to 90 2.10 2.23
Aged 90 and over 0.40 0.35

Table 3. Baptisms and Burials in London for two five year periods: 1735-1739 and 1760-1764 inclusive

  1735 1736 1737 1738 1739
Baptisms 16,691 16,491 16,760 16,060 16,175
Burials 23,707 27,581 27,823 25,825 25,487

 

  1760 1761 1762 1763 1764
Baptisms 14,951 16,000 15,321 15,133 16,801
Burials 19,830 21,063 26,326 26,143 23,202

 

Although these two sets of figures relate to periods 25 years apart, the numbers of baptisms and burials are remarkably consistent. The figures relate to the parishes within the city walls of London and there would be high population movement between this and adjacent districts as well as migration from other parts of the country.

 

Table 4. Causes of Death in London in 1735

Causes excluding accidents Deaths in 1735
  Number Percent of total
Abortive & Still
590
2.55
Aged
1595
6.91
Apoplexy & Suddenly
196
0.85
Asthmas & phthisic
477
2.07
Cancer
58
0.25
Childbed
192
0.83
Cholick, gripe, twisting of gut
317
1.37
Consumption
4064
17.60
Convulsions
7572
32.79
Coughs & Hoopinge
81
0.35
Dropsy
1050
4.55
Fevers and Purples
2544
11.01
French Pox
102
0.44
Gout
38
0.16
Headmouldshot, horsehead & water on the brain
143
0.62
Inflammation
22
0.10
Jaundice
154
0.67
Measles
10
0.04
Mortification
167
0.72
Smallpox
1594
6.90
Stoppage of the Stomach
162
0.70
Teeth
1342
5.81
Total from these causes
22470
97.29%
Total deaths in year 23093  

 

See Glossary of Old Medical Terms for details of causes

To look at the variance in the data I examined the figures for two periods in the 1730s and in the 1760s. While there is some fluctuation in the figures from year to year there does not appear to be a marked change over the period in the distribution between the main categories. It is not possible to know from this data if the diagnoses of common diseases changed. In the 1730s there appear to be rather more diagnoses of "teeth", assumed to be mainly children contracting infections at the time of weaning.

Table 5. Summary of main causes of death 1735-1738 & 1760-1764

CAUSE OF DEATH 1735 1736 1737 1738 1760 1761 1762 1763 1764
                   
Convulsions 7572 7924 7811 7524 5230 6066 6703 6338 5952
Tuberculosis 4064 4554 4441 4326 3776 4110 5139 4892 4435
Fevers and Purples 2544 3361 4580 3890 2136 2457 3742 3414 3942
Smallpox 1594 3014 2084 1590 2187 1525 2743 3582 2382
Dropsy 1050 1140 1035 969 788 840 1039 1060 958
Aged 1595 1918 1984 1841 1558 1525 2053 1836 1505
Teeth 1342 1447 1423 1376 786 861 1037 890 746
Abortive and Still 590 592 649 608 698 676 631 680 729
Asthma 477 582 649 608 385 323 479 489 362
Childbed 192 202 284 261 238 289 272 257 231
                   
Total deaths for year 23707 27581 27823 25825 19830 21063 26326 26143 23283

 

At this period, and indeed for the next century, diagnosis of the causes of death was very primitive. The terms pneumonia, typhus and typhoid were unknown and they do not appear in Dr. Johnson's dictionary of 1755. Typhus was variously called jail fever, camp fever, ship fever and prison fever. It is probably covered in these figures by fevers and purples. "Convulsions" is listed as the main cause of death but would be the end stage of various fevers produced by infections. The second biggest cause of death was tuberculosis, accounting for 17%.

The Gentleman's Magazine was consulted at the Cheshire County Record Office. 

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