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Mineral

death, death-rate, relation, betwixt, mortality, factors, statistics, birth, social and conditions

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MINERAL WATERS.—Term applied to waters which are naturally or artificially charged with carbonic-acid gas, and some of which contain also alkaline, saline, or acid substances in solution. Springs containing waters so charged are found in various parts of the world. Among European springs some of the more noteworthy are Rhens, Niederselters, and Vichy ; among American, Saratoga (N.Y.), Hot Springs (Ark.), and Las Vegas (New M.). Artificial mineral waters (vichy, seltzer, etc.) are largely manufactured. They contain only carbonic-acid gas, with which they are rendered sparkling, and furnish refreshing table beverages.

MISCARRIAGE.—See ABORTION.

MORTALITY.—It has been said that " next to birth, the most important phenomenon in life is death " ; and the truth of this assertion is tacitly recognised in the care with which records of death as as those of birth are kept in civilised countries. Yet so complicated are the causes and conditions affecting the mortality of any given community or country that any attempt to generalise from unclassified statistics in this field is fraught with danger. With all its drawbacks, however, in point of accuracy, the death-rate remains the basis for important judgments and decisions. The healthfulness of different communities and regions and of different trades and occupations, the prosperity and comfort of the people, the value of efforts at sanitary legislation, and the dangers of different modes of living—to all these the death-rate serves as an index. The important relation which it bears to the interests and daily life of a people was clearly and simply set forth about twenty years ago by Dr. Farr, in his " Vital Statistics " : " IIow the people live is one of the most important questions that can be considered ; and how—of what causes and at what ages—they die, is scarcely of less account ; for it is the complement of the primary question, teaching men how to live a longer, healthier, and happier life. There is a relation betwixt death and sickness . . . There is a relation betwixt death, health, and energy of body and mind. There is a relation betwixt death, birth, and marriage. There is a relation betwixt death and national primacy ; numbers turn the tide in the struggle of population, and the most mortal die out. There is a relation betwixt the forms of death and moral excellence or infamy ; men destroy themselves or their fellows under the most varied mental conditions ; they may die by indulgence in excesses, by idleness, or by improvidence." Age, sex, social condition, conjugal condition, climate, time of year, race and occupation. as well as the sinister influences of crime, vice, and poverty— all tend to modify the death-rate ; and in order to arrive at any valid con clusion, the mortality statistics must be considered in connection with all these factors. An abnormally large death-rate is a challenge—first to an explanation, and then to a reformation ; for, although death itself is a normal process of Nature, its occurrence is so largely influenced by human conduct and the advances of civilisation, that a large measure of responsibility rests upon those who have the power to direct the factors which have been mentioned as in a measure controlling it. Similarly, a fluctuating death-rate,

sensitive to every change of social condition, whether for better or worse, indicates in the community a certain instability, a lack of power of resistance, which is analagous to a similar lack in the human body.

In calculating the death-rate, it is the custom to give the number of deaths per annum for each L000 of the population considered, a method accurate enough for large populations. In Europe the heaviest death rates are found in the eastern part ; slightly lower in the central part ; and lowest of all in the northern part, where Norway shows 14'8 as against Italy's 22'2, and Hungary's 26'1—all by the census of 1903. The difference, however, is probably not due to mere geographical position, but rather to general social influences and economic conditions. Climate undoubtedly does have an important influence on mortality, especially in those cases where foreigners in large numbers migrate to tropical countries. For instance, in 1891 the death-rate for the British Army at home was 4'7 ; abroad, 13'5. As regards race and religion, also, it is probable that any apparent influence which they exert on the figures in question is really due to concomitant social and economic factors. Thus, the high death-rates in the Slavonic provinces of Prussia and Austria cannot be attributed to an inherent weakness in the Slavonic race, but rather to the poorer circumstances under which they live as compared with their Germanic neighbours. Again, the census returns of the United States show a higher mortality among those of foreign parentage ; but that is probably to be explained by the larger proportion of children among that class. The rate for Jews is everywhere low, and this has been attributed in part to their low birth-rate, an association of statistics also paralleled in Ireland. This factor is somewhat discounted, however, by the investigations of official German statisticians, who, after comparing birth and death rates for a period of forty-five years, stated that " it is impossible to discover any connection between the births and deaths in the sense that a high birth-rate corresponds to a high death-rate in the same or subsequent year." Density of population does not in itself seem to influence the death-rate ; but where it implies crowded and unsanitary living it increases it, and thus brings up the rate for cities in spite of the advantages which they offer in the way of better medical assistance, hospitals, free dispensaries, and well-managed water supply and sewerage. The factors which cause variation in the death-rate from year to year are war, epidemics, and hard times. The bearing of the first two is obvious. The last-named, however, is more difficult to estimate, as its effects are not immediate, being commonly distributed over a subsequent period of some length, during which those persons whose power of resistance had been weakened by privation succumb to diseases which normally they would have overcome.

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