The Visual History of
Global Health


Life Expectancy before 1800 was very low. Here is the historical data for England:


In fact: Life Expectancy was very low around the world in 1800.


Life expectancy was so low because child mortality was very high - we'll look at that in a moment.

Back to the story of Life Expectancy in England: Nothing happened until around 1800


But then: Life Expectancy more than doubled over the next 200 years!


And the same happened in other European countries


And with some delay, the same happened in countries around the world

(This is an interactive chart -- click 'Add Country' and see more data; or change to the 'Map' view.)

Let's look at the global development of health.

Here is life expectancy in 1800 again:


And now compare this to life expectancy in 2011.

(The legend is the same in both maps)


On the next slide you can directly compare the world maps in 1800 and today..

A comparison of life expectancy in 1800, in 1950 and today
visualizes how dramatic this improvement was.

(All 3 maps have the same legend. Remember that you always find the interactive visualisation by clicking on the map.)

Let's look at child mortality.

Child mortality is the number of newborn babies that die before reaching the age of five - per 1,000 live births.

Children (younger than 5 years) were the age group that experienced the biggest improvements.


Child mortality first dropped in those countries that industrialized early, but then other countries followed.


The decline happened very fast in those countries that grew rapidly, like South Korea. But also in Iran.


Let's look at the whole world again.

Press the 'Play button' to see the change from 1970 until today.

Clearly children experienced the largest decrease in mortality but it was not exclusively children that
benefitted from health improvements over the course of modernity.

Life expectancy at older ages also improved substantially.


Not just the mortality of children but also the mortality of their mothers decreased dramatically.

Just a hundred years ago a woman was more than 70-times more likely to die while giving birth.


Click on the graph to find the interactive version of this chart and read more about maternal mortality.

Particularly remarkable are the cases in which diseases were completely eradicated - The most important of which was Smallpox, which thanks to vaccination, was globally eradicated in 1977.


Smallpox was a particular destructive disease (before the time of the smallpox vaccination it was the cause of death for around 10% of the population of London every year).

Other diseases are getting eliminated in more and more parts of the world.

The map below shows the past and current malaria prevalence around the world. Malaria has been successfully eliminated in many areas.

The number of people dying of malaria was rising as the world population was increasing rapidly.

Now the number of people dying from malaria is declining rapidly.


HIV/AIDS is still a serious health threat but with the availability of antiretroviral treatment the number of people dying from AIDS has been declining over the last decade.


As a conclusion I want to summarize the global change in one graph.

The graph shows a lot of information and is slightly
more complicated - let's look at it in three steps.

In 1800 life expectancy was very low in all countries.

The worst off countries had a life expectancy of 25 - while life expectancy was 40 in the best off countries.


In the next step we look at the increase of life expectancy between 1800 and 1950.

It was a very unequal improvement: some countries experienced huge progress, while others still had life expectancies under 40.


And over the last six decades the less well off countries have caught up.

Life expectancy in all countries in the world is much higher than 200 years ago.


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This presentation is part of a 4-part series:

  1. The Visual History of Improving Health around the World
  2. The Visual History of the Rise of Political Freedom and Decrease in Violence
  3. Increasing Prosperity, Declining Poverty, and Decreasing World Income Inequality
  4. The Visual History of Decreasing World Hunger and Improving Food Provision

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The Visual History of the Rise of Political Freedom and Decrease in Violence

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