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06 - Mortality Definition & Patterns

06 - Mortality Definition & Patterns - SOCI 121...

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SOCI 121: Population Problems M ORTALITY : D EFINITIONS AND P ATTERNS Objectives: Define Mortality, life span, and longevity Explain why these concepts are important Describe basic mortality patterns down to the age and sex level Class Notes: Mortality: What is it and Why is it Important? Mortality refers to deaths in a population. It is one of the three dynamic population processes. Declining mortality is the root cause of the revolutionary increase in the world’s population size and growth. Only within the last century has mortality been brought under control to the point that most people are able to live to what we now consider old age. Life Span and Longevity Mortality is an inherently biological phenomenon, but we now know that variations in mortality rates are due to social, not purely biological causes. o One aspect of mortality is life span , which refers to the oldest age at which human beings can survive. Life span seems to be almost entirely a biological phenomenon. o The second aspect, longevity , refers to the ability to remain alive from one year to the next – the ability to resist death. Longevity has both biological and social components. What is the human life span? o Since we do not have a good theory about aging to help us predict how long humans could live, we assume that the oldest age to which a human actually has lived is the oldest age to which it is possible to live. The oldest authenticated age to which a human has ever lived is 122 years and 164 days, an age achieved by a French woman, Jeanne Louise Calment. Longevity is usually measured by life expectancy, the statistically average length of life (or average expected age at death), and is greatly influenced by the societal milieu. o Biological Factors Influencing Longevity Many of the most severe biological weaknesses tend to display themselves soon after birth, and, as a result, mortality is considerably higher in the first year or so of life than it is in the remainder of childhood and early adulthood. This is true for all animal populations, not just humans. There is bound to be a strong biological component to this pattern. Among humans, females tend to have higher probabilities of survival at every age than do males, and this also seems to have a strong biological component.
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