Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How Death Changed

I've watched a lot of operas and read a lot of Edgar Allan Poe (minor fact: my first publication was about him), so in my mental landscape there are a lot of deaths by tuberculosis. But of course, TB is not high on my list of worries for my kids. Ever wondered how these worries changed from 1900 to 2000? Here's a nice graph that spells it out by causes of death over time, edited by the Washington Post with original data from The New England Journal of Medicine. No wonder so many climactic arias involve TB.

For the more data-inclined, the NEJM has an interactive chart that shows how things changed decade by decade. (Notice the huge 1918 flu spike.) Can we project from this? Accidents may be going up, and the disease I first find that's increasing is Alzheimer's, which involves protein folding and is somewhat close to my current research. Also, chronic airways diseases, still going up. This chart contains the other point that cancer is actually going down, although barely, and heart disease has a steeper downward slope. There's lots more to find, and that interactive chart is a nice way to look at the data: I'd say have fun with the data, but that seems kind of weird when you're talking about causes of death.

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