Mortality Rate: Definition & Types

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  • 0:00 What is Mortality?
  • 0:30 The Mortality Rate Explained
  • 2:01 Types of Mortality Rates
  • 3:01 Use of Mortality Rate
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Mortality and death may not be fun things to think about, but scientists study the data surrounding these concepts and uncover interesting information. Ever wondered what kind of stuff they're learning? Read on to find out.

What Is Mortality?

When you are talking about mortality, you are talking about death, and usually the death of many people. The death of one person could be considered a mortality, but the death of all people in a region or period of time can also be referred to as their mortality. Scientists study how, why and how often people die to help understand many different concepts, but we'll talk more about that later. First, let's take a look at how they figure out mortality rate.

The Mortality Rate Explained

Scientists study mortality many different ways. For instance, they often use a figure called mortality rate. The mortality rate is the number of people who die in a given year and area, divided by the population of that area. The formula is simple: D divided by P. D is the number of deaths, and P is the population of that area.

Let's look at an example. Scientists may wonder what the deer-related mortality rate is in the United States every year, or how many people are killed due to accidents involving deer. To figure it out they apply the formula.

D = Approximately 130 people are killed each year by deer-related accidents.

P = The US population is 320 million.

Deer-related mortality in the US then is 130 / 320000000 = 4.06 x 10^-7, which is a really small number. To make that deaths per 10,000,000, which would be a usable number to scientists, we would just multiply that number times 10 million.

4.06 x 10^-7 x 1.0 x 107 = 4.06

So, the deer-related mortality rate in the US is approximately 4 per 10 million. What are some other kinds of mortality rates scientists use?

Types of Mortality Rates

Deer-related mortality rates are not the hottest topic to scientists. Although it's useful in certain circles, there is data for mortality rates more critical for scientists. Some types that are more commonly studied and discussed are:

  • Crude mortality rate - This is all deaths divided by the population. Specifically, it is how many deaths occur in a population in a year. It is estimated per 1,000 total population. Scientists use this data to compare mortality rates among countries and regions.
  • Infant mortality rate - An important statistic concerning mortality is the number of deaths among children under one year of age divided by the number of live births that year.
  • Maternal mortality rate - Scientists are also interested in the number of mothers who die in incidents related to child bearing. This mortality rate is calculated by dividing by the number of live births.

An important thing to note is the total population for most mortality rates is usually taken at the middle of the period in question.

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