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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Then & Now: Research Pays Off for All Americans

A frame and an old picture

Photo: Juanita Stancliff Kuhn

The American Family, 1909

William Cole Harrison, left, and family, 837 South Lake Street, Los Angeles, California, summer of 1909. Daisy, left rear, and Ray, right, were the only two of the Harrisons' nine children to have survived into adulthood.

U.S. Population: 90,500,000

Life Expectancy:
Male – 50.5 years; Female – 53.8 years

Top 3 Causes of Death: Tuberculosis, Heart Disease, Diarrhea and Enteritis

"Taking first the division by decades of age, diarrhea, and enteritis is by far the most important cause of death of children under 12. This disease is even more important in the first five years, and especially in the first and second. Tuberculosis is supreme for the four decades covering the ages 10 – 49…"

— Census Report for 1909

Your family portrait here

The American Family, 2009

U.S. Population: 306,000,000

Life Expectancy:
Male – 75.2 years; Female – 80.4 years

Top 3 Causes of Death: Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke

"…death rates for eight of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States all dropped significantly in 2006, including a very sharp drop in mortality from influenza and pneumonia."

— National Center for Health Statistics, 2008

To Find Out More

Despite the progress of the last 100 years, the U.S. health care system faces ongoing challenges, such as a gap in mortality rates between whites and people of color. To learn more about disease, mortality rates, and life expectancy, go to:

Winter 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 1 Page 22