Mortality rate, or death rate, is a measure of the number of deaths (in general, or due to a specific cause) in a particular population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit of time. Mortality rate is typically expressed in units of deaths per 1,000 individuals per year; thus, a mortality rate of 9.5 (out of 1,000) in a population of 1,000 would mean 9.5 deaths per year in that entire population, or 0.95% out of the total. It is distinct from "morbidity", which is either the prevalence or incidence of a disease, and also from the incidence rate (the number of newly appearing cases of the disease per unit of time).
In the generic form, mortality rates are calculated as:
where d represents the deaths occurring within a given time period and p represents the size of the population in which the deaths occur.
Related measures of mortality
Other specific measures of mortality include:
|Measures of Mortality |
|Crude death rate – the total number of deaths per year per 1,000 people. As of 2017[update] the crude death rate for the whole world is 8.33 per 1,000 (up from 7.8 per 1,000 in 2016) according to the current CIA World Factbook.|
|Perinatal mortality rate – the sum of neonatal deaths and fetal deaths (stillbirths) per 1,000 births.|
|Maternal mortality ratio – the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in same time period.|
|Maternal mortality rate – the number of maternal deaths per 1,000 women of reproductive age in the population (generally defined as 15–44 years of age).|
|Infant mortality rate – the number of deaths of children less than 1 year old per 1,000 live births.|
|Child mortality rate: the number of deaths of children less than 5 years old per 1,000 live births.|
|Standardized mortality ratio (SMR) – a proportional comparison to the numbers of deaths that would have been expected if the population had been of a standard composition in terms of age, gender, etc.|
|Age-specific mortality rate (ASMR) – the total number of deaths per year per 1,000 people of a given age (e.g. age 62 last birthday).|
|Cause-specific mortality rate – the mortality rate for a specified cause of death.|
|Cumulative death rate: a measure of the (growing) proportion of a group that die over a specified period (often as estimated by techniques that account for missing data by statistical censoring).|
|Case fatality rate (CFR) – the proportion of cases of a particular medical condition that lead to death.|
|Sex-specific mortality rate - Total number of deaths in a population of a specific sex within a given time interval|
Use in epidemiology
In most cases, there are few ways, if at all possible to obtain exact mortality rates, so epidemiologists use estimation to predict correct mortality rates. Mortality rates are usually difficult to predict due to language barriers, health infrastructure related issues, conflict, and other reasons. Maternal mortality has additional challenges, especially as they pertain to stillbirths, abortions, and multiple births. In some countries, during the 1920s a stillbirth was defined as "a birth of at least twenty weeks' gestation in which the child shows no evidence of life after complete birth". In most countries, however, a stillbirth was defined as "the birth of a fetus, after 28 weeks of pregnancy, in which pulmonary respiration does not occur".
Census data and vital statistics
Ideally, all mortality estimation would be done using vital statistics and census data. Census data will give detailed information about the population at risk of death. The vital statistics provide information about live births and deaths in the population. Often, either census data and vital statistics data is not available. This is especially true in developing countries, countries that are in conflict, areas where natural disasters have caused mass displacement, and other areas where there is a humanitarian crisis 
Household surveys or interviews are another way in which mortality rates are often assessed. There are several methods to estimate mortality in different segments of the population. One such example is the sisterhood method. This technique involves researchers estimating maternal mortality by contacting women in populations of interest and asking whether or not they have a sister, if the sister is of child-rearing age (usually 15) and conducting an interview or written questions about possible deaths among sisters. The sisterhood method, however, does not work in cases where sisters may have died before the sister being interviewed was born.
Orphanhood surveys estimate mortality by questioning children are asked about the mortality of their parents. It has often been criticized as an adult mortality rate that is very biased for several reasons. The adoption effect is one such instance in which orphans often do not realize that they are adopted. Additionally, interviewers may not realize that an adoptive or foster parent is not the child’s biological parent. There is also the issue of parents being reported on by multiple children while some adults have no children, thus are not counted in mortality estimates.
Widowhood surveys estimate adult mortality by responding to questions about the deceased husband or wife. One limitation of the widowhood survey surrounds the issues of divorce, where people may be more likely to report that they are widowed in places where there is the great social stigma around being a divorcee. Another limitation is that multiple marriages introduce biased estimates, so individuals are often asked about first marriage. Biases will be significant if the association of death between spouses, such as those in countries with large AIDS epidemics.
Sampling refers to the selection of a subset of the population of interest to efficiently gain information about the entire population. Samples should be representative of the population of interest. Cluster sampling is an approach to non-probability sampling; this is an approach in which each member of the population is assigned to a group (cluster), and then clusters are randomly selected, and all members of selected clusters are included in the sample. Often combined with stratification techniques (in which case it is called multistage sampling), cluster sampling is the approach most often used by epidemiologists. In areas of forced migration, there is more significant sampling error. Thus cluster sampling is not the ideal choice.
|Rank||Country||Death rate |
(annual deaths/1,000 persons)
- Ischaemic heart disease (119 per 100,000 population)
- Stroke (85 per 100,000 population)
- Lower respiratory infections (43 per 100,000 population)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (43 per 100,000 population)
- Trachea/bronchus/lung cancers (23 per 100,000 population)
- Diabetes mellitus (22 per 100,000 population)
- Alzheimer's disease and other dementias (21 per 100,000 population)
- Diarrhoeal diseases (19 per 100,000 population)
- Tuberculosis (19 per 100,000 population)
- Road traffic accidents (10 per 100,000 population)
According to Jean Ziegler (the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for 2000 to March 2008), mortality due to malnutrition accounted for 58% of the total mortality in 2006: "In the world, approximately 62 millions people, all causes of death combined, die each year. In 2006, more than 36 million died of hunger or diseases due to deficiencies in micronutrients".
Of the roughly 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds—100,000 per day—die of age-related causes. In industrialized nations, the proportion is much higher, reaching 90%.
- Compensation law of mortality
- Gompertz–Makeham law of mortality
- List of causes of death by rate
- List of countries by number of deaths
- List of countries by birth rate
- List of countries by death rate
- List of countries by life expectancy
- Maximum life span
- Mortality displacement
- Risk adjusted mortality rate
- Vital statistics
- Medical statistics
- Weekend effect
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- Jean Ziegler, L'Empire de la honte, Fayard, 2007 ISBN 978-2-253-12115-2, p.130.
- Aubrey D.N.J, de Grey (2007). "Life Span Extension Research and Public Debate: Societal Considerations" (PDF). Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. 1 (1, Article 5). doi:10.2202/1941-6008.1011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- Crude death rate (per 1,000 population) based on World Population Prospects The 2008 Revision, United Nations. Retrieved 22 June 2010
- Rank Order – Death rate in CIA World Factbook
- Mortality in The Medical Dictionary, Medterms. Retrieved 22 June 2010
- "WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1999 – 2007", US Centers for Disease Control Retrieved 22 June 2010
- Edmond Halley, An Estimate of the Degrees of the Mortality of Mankind (1693)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Birth and death rates.|
- DeathRiskRankings: Calculates risk of dying in the next year using MicroMorts and displays risk rankings for up to 66 causes of death[permanent dead link]
- Data regarding death rates by age and cause in the United States (from Data360)
- Complex Emergency Database (CE-DAT): Mortality data from conflict-affected populations
- Human Mortality Database: Historic mortality data from developed nations
- Google – public data: Mortality in the U.S.