Are humans getting healthier?  Do you know what percentage of children survive their fifth birthday?   Do you know what percentage died before the age of five in the year 1800?

This graph, created by Max Roser from data from GapMinder and the Worldbank shows child mortality over time. In the year 1800, nearly 43% of ALL children died before the age of five.   Today, all around the globe, 4.3% of all children die before the age of five.

Over the past 200 years, child mortality has dropped from 43% to 4.3%!  While 4.3 percent is still a tragically high number of children, this is a vast improvement over 43%.

How did this improvement happen?

With increasing wealth, people’s living conditions improved. They ate healthier diets which increased heath.  With knowledge, they avoided sickness. With Pasteur’s discovery of the germs causing  infectious disease, people improved their sanitary practices, got vaccinated and used antibiotics to ward off infectious disease.

Child mortality can tell us a lot about human health.  As children survive childhood, it shows that humans are getting healthier.

Future of Child Survival

If this trend continues, it appears that, within 20 years,  fewer than 1% of children will die before the age of 5.  While it is still a tragedy for the families of the million children who will die, this is good news for the millions more families who will not lose a child.

This graph is courtesy of Max Roser (2018) – “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it“. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts’ [Online Resource]