Friday, January 07, 2011

Genes Reunited explores ageing through the ages

The following is from Genes Reunited. 

Ageing through the ages

. 100 centenarians found on the 1911 census for England & Wales
. Number of centenarians quadruples in the last 30 years

The team at has been looking into recent government statistics about longevity and drawing comparisons with Victorian Britain.

At the moment there are about 11,800 people in the UK who are 100 or older and fewer than 100 of those are older than 110. By 2066 the Department for Work and Pensions predicts that there will be around 507,000 people who are 100 or older, with about 7,700 of those being older than 110.

If we look back in time, this is vastly different to when our ancestors were around. In mid-Victorian Britain life expectancy was low and even lower in towns and cities. The population were expected to live to about the age of
40. Three in 20 children would die before their first birthday. Obviously life was very different back then and is the main reason why life expectancy was so low. There was inadequate sanitation, working conditions were often
dangerous and the diet was, on the whole, very poor. Children frequently died from scarlet fever and measles. This is so different to life now when scarlet fever can be treated and children can be vaccinated against measles. Adults often died from asthma.

In Victorian Britain there were also several outbreaks of typhoid and cholera, which were caused by drinking dirty water. Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert died from typhoid in 1861. Thousands of people died of these
dreadful diseases and prompted the Sanitary Act, which was passed in 1866. As a result of this act local authorities had to take action to provide fresh water, sewage and waste disposal and street cleaning.

By 1911 life expectancy had increased. Women were expected to live to 54 and men were expected to live to 50. There were about 100 centenarians recorded in the 1911 census for England & Wales. If you look at employment figures, about 1.3 million people worked as domestic servants. About 1.2 million were employed in agriculture and 971,000 were employed in coal mining.

Looking at figures from a 2008 labour force survey by the Office for National Statistics, you can see that jobs have changed drastically over the last 100 years. In 2008 1.6 million people worked as sales assistants and retail cashiers; 1.4 million as 'functional managers', e.g. in sales and marketing, personnel and information technology, and there were 1.3 million in teaching. There were no longer enough coal miners to even register on the survey.

Over the last thirty years the number of centenarians has actually quadrupled. This is quite simply down to better medical treatment, better housing, a higher standard of living and better nutrition. This year we will all be filling out the 2011 census in the UK, so although the Office of National Statistics says that it will keep the information
confidential for 100 years, many more of us could still be around in 2112 to see the data released.

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About Genes Reunited
Genes Reunited was launched in 2003 as a sister-site to the Internet phenomenon Friends Reunited. Since then it has grown to become the UK's largest genealogy website. It marked a revolution in genealogy and ancestry by combining them with Internet social-networking. Members are able to build their family tree by posting it on the site and investigating which ancestors they share with other members. They can also search historical records such as census, birth, marriage, death and military records. Genes Reunited has over 11 million members and over 750 million names listed. One new name is added to the site every single second.

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