BEHS 380 Discuss how the causes of death in the United States have changed over the past few centuries

  • Discuss how the causes of death in the United States have changed over the past few centuries. 

The causes of death in the United States various and include infectious disease, war, and natural disasters. Starting from colonial America, although not many records were kept, it can be rekon that the major causes of deaths were from infectious diseases. Another aspect from this period is that of nondisease mortalities, such as those that affected native populations. These included “wars, genocide, enslavement, tribals removals and relocations, and the resultant chagnes in Native American culture, organization, and subsitence patterns”. (Lamb, 2003) ” Furthermore, “during the early 1700s, in areas like New England, death rates were higher in urban areas than in small towns. “Urban death rates declined to converge with rural death rates in the early 19th century”. (Lamb, 2003) Througout the 19th century, “the major cause for death still remained to be infectious and contagious diseases”. (Lamb, 2003) A contributing factor for this can be the transportation revolution, in the 1800s that lead to more dense populations in urban areas. Another aspect to point out is that throughout the 19th century, men tended to have higher death rates than women. Although, “females deaths sometimes exceeded males death between ages 20 and 50 due to the hazards of chilbearing, frontier life, and vulnerability to disease-causing organisms” (Lamb, 2003). All this decreased at the end of the 19th century with the institution of public health reforms. (Lamb, 2003) In the 20th century, “the long-term decline in mortality rates was paralleled by a trend in decline of deaths due to infectious diseases, whereas mortality due to whereas mortality due to noninfectious diseases remained constant” (Lamb, 2003). The 20th century saw a dropped of mortality for all ages. “Much of the increase in life expectancy in the 20th century can be attributed to reductions in infant and child mortality” (Lamb, 2003). Throughout all these time frames there is also the aspect of wars, such as those of the Civil War and WW2.

  • Is the fear of death universal?

According to the article “The Universal Fear of Death and the Cultural Response”, we humans are indeed ultimately driven by the fear of death. All generations have dealt with death as being an ugly and unpleasent reality, accompany with different emotions. Or as the article states it, “the deaths of members of a society were thus traumatic and potentially disintegrating experiences for the group” (Moore, C., & Williamson, J., 2003). Death is something that all cultures, and peoples have grappled with and it hasn’t been until recent times that death has been sort-of sanitized. Yet the reality of death is still a constant reality that we must all grapple with.

  • What are at least 4 ways in which awareness of death may shape people’s lives? How might thoughts of death lead to these behaviors?

The awarness of death can shape a people’s lives either in becoming intolerant, caring, reckless or seeking control. According to terror managment theory, the reminder of death can lead to an individual being intolerent to others who don’t share the same beliefs and more tolerant of those that share the same. This could be because of the need for reducing the anxiety of thinking of one’s death. Additionally, the reminder of one’s death can also make a person more caring towards others. I think this could be because of the understaning that we are all of the same route. Others, such as stated in the Braincraft’s video, take a more reckless approach. This could be because of the understanding that death will come upon all, so the mindset may be of why not live your live. Although, this can be harmful depending on what this entails for an individual. Lastly, death can also create in someone a need of seeking control, such as in excersing, eating healthy and looking after one’s well being. This one I can understand, as working out and eating healthy, among others, can affect one’s health and life in the long run.




  • LAMB, V. (2003). Historical and epidemiological trends in mortality in the united states. In C. D. Bryant, & D. L. Peck Handbook of death & dying (pp. 185-197). SAGE Publications, Inc.,
  • MOORE, C., & WILLIAMSON, J. (2003). The universal fear of death and the cultural response. In C. D. Bryant, & D. L. Peck Handbook of death & dying (pp. 3-13). SAGE Publications, Inc.,
  • Braincraft. (2015, October 26). The Surprising Ways Death Shapes Our Lives. Retrieved from
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