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Understanding Mid-Life and Older Age Mortality Declines: Evidence from Union Army Veterans

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  • Dora L. Costa

Abstract

During the twentieth century the 17 year survival rate of 50-64 year old men rose by 24 percentage points. I examine waiting time until death from all natural causes and from all chronic, all acute, respiratory, stomach, infectious, all heart, ischemic, and myocarditis disease among Union Army veterans first observed in 1900. The effect of such specific early life infections as stomach ailments, rheumatic fever, syphilis, measles, respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhea, and tuberculosis on older age mortality depended upon the cause of death that was being investigated but all of these infections reduced cause-specific longevity. Men who grew up in a large city faced an elevated mortality risk from all causes of death controlling for later residence. The immediate effect of reduced infectious disease rates and reduced mortality from acute disease accounts for 62 percent of the twentieth century increase in survival rates and the long-run effect of reduced early life infectious disease rates accounts for 12 percent of the increase. The findings imply that although the current effects of improved public health and medical care are larger than the cohort effects, cost-benefit analyses and forecasts of future mortality still need to account for long-run effects; that mortality in populations in which infectious, respiratory, and parasitic deaths are common is best described by a competing risks model; and, that the urbanization that accompanied early industrialization was extremely costly.

Suggested Citation

  • Dora L. Costa, 2000. "Understanding Mid-Life and Older Age Mortality Declines: Evidence from Union Army Veterans," NBER Working Papers 8000, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8000
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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Deschênes & Enrico Moretti, 2009. "Extreme Weather Events, Mortality, and Migration," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(4), pages 659-681, November.
    2. Linares, Claudia & Su, Dejun, 2005. "Body mass index and health among Union Army veterans: 1891-1905," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 367-387, December.
    3. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    4. Horrell, Sara & Meredith, David & Oxley, Deborah, 2009. "Measuring misery: Body mass, ageing and gender inequality in Victorian London," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 93-119, January.
    5. Arora Suchit, 2012. "Understanding Aging during the Epidemiologic Transition," Working Papers 12-07, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    6. Martin Salm, 2011. "The Effect of Pensions on Longevity: Evidence from Union Army Veterans," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(552), pages 595-619, May.
    7. Costa, Dora L., 2004. "The Measure of Man and Older Age Mortality: Evidence from the Gould Sample," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 1-23, March.
    8. Cranfield, John & Inwood, Kris, 2007. "The great transformation: A long-run perspective on physical well-being in Canada," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 204-228, July.
    9. Lindeboom, Maarten & Portrait, France & van den Berg, Gerard J., 2010. "Long-run effects on longevity of a nutritional shock early in life: The Dutch Potato famine of 1846-1847," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 617-629, September.
    10. Noymer, Andrew, 2009. "Testing the influenza-tuberculosis selective mortality hypothesis with Union Army data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(9), pages 1599-1608, May.
    11. Coppola, Michela, 2013. "The biological standard of living and mortality in Central Italy at the beginning of the 19th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 453-464.
    12. Dora L. Costa & Joanna Lahey, 2003. "Becoming Oldest-Old: Evidence from Historical U.S. Data," NBER Working Papers 9933, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Birchenall, Javier A., 2011. "Airborne diseases: Tuberculosis in the Union Army," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 325-342, April.
    14. Chen Song & Louis Nguyen, 2003. "The Effect of Hernias on the Labor Force Participation of Union Army Veterans," NBER Chapters,in: Health and Labor Force Participation over the Life Cycle: Evidence from the Past, pages 253-310 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Su, Dejun, 2009. "Occupational career and risk of mortality among US Civil War Veterans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 460-468, August.
    16. Aksan, Anna-Maria & Chakraborty, Shankha, 2014. "Mortality versus morbidity in the demographic transition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 470-492.
    17. Dora L. Costa, 2004. "Race and Older Age Mortality: Evidence from Union Army Veterans," NBER Working Papers 10902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Sunder, Marco, 2005. "Toward generation XL: Anthropometrics of longevity in late 20th-century United States," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 271-295, July.
    19. Dora L. Costa, 2009. "The Health of Older Men in the Past," NBER Chapters,in: Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly, pages 21-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Aksan, Anna-Maria & Chakraborty, Shankha, 2013. "Twin Transitions," MPRA Paper 49929, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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