Death comes to all humans, but how death is managed, symbolised and experienced varies widely, not only between individuals but also between groups. What then shapes how a society manages death, dying and bereavement today? Are all modern countries similar? How important are culture, the physical environment, national histories, national laws and institutions, and globalization? This is the first book to look at how all these different factors shape death and dying in the modern world. Written by an internationally renowned scholar in death studies, and drawing on examples from around the world, including the UK, USA, China and Japan, The Netherlands, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. This book investigates how key factors such as money, communication technologies, the family, religion, and war, interact in complex ways to shape people’s experiences of dying and grief. Essential reading for students, researchers and professionals across sociology, anthropology, social work and healthcare, and for anyone who wants to understand how countries around the world manage death and dying.
Chapter 1: Longevity
Throughout prehistory and most of history, human life expectancy at birth has been 25–35 years and in unusually healthy societies 30–40 years; this includes many deaths in infancy. It is only since the second half of the nineteenth century that the adult death rate has come down significantly in modern western societies, and only since the early twentieth century has the infant mortality rate dramatically declined. Worldwide, average life expectancy has increased at almost three months per year since the mid-nineteenth century, amounting to a total increase in lifespan of around 40 years, though for most countries this increase has only been manifest since the Second World War. Globally, newborns can now expect to live to 72. For several of the most economically ...