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Brief lives: Infant mortality in Perth, 1870-1914: A preliminary analysis

Durey, M. (1982) Brief lives: Infant mortality in Perth, 1870-1914: A preliminary analysis. Studies in Western Australian History, 5 . pp. 62-71.

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The purpose of this paper is to make available some of the preliminary data which have emerged from a research project which I have been working on for a number of years. The focus of my study has been an examination of the trends in infant mortality in Perth between 1870 and 1914. The project has some significance both for Perth during the period of its first massive expansion phase and for the global problem of why infant mortality declined so dramatically in most westernised countries by the second decade of the twentieth century. Ultimately I hope to produce a full-scale study of infant mortality during the period 1870 to 1914, using contemporary statistics from the eastern states, Great Britain and Europe, but having as the primary data base the statistics of Perth which are offered in this paper. However, in the meantime, it seems appropriate to offer my Perth data in tabular form, even though this paper represents no more than a very preliminary statement of my findings. The outstanding features of Perth's demographic history which emerge are a high infant mortality rate even before a rapid increase in Perth's population during the 1890s, a dramatic peak in mortality at the height of the goldrush, and a steepling decline in infant mortality in the first decade of the twentieth century. Perinatal mortality remains high throughout the period examined. The decline in mortality occurs primarily in the post-neonatal period, as a consequence of fewer deaths from gastroenteritis and from the syndrome known as weanling diarrheoa.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: University of Western Australia. Centre for Western Australian History
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