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SeeAn unsuitable and degraded diet? Part three: Victorian consumption patterns and their health benefitsin volume 101 on page 454.

Rowbotham and Clayton (JRSM2008;101:45462) make a very important point when they draw attention to the life expectancy at birth compared to life expectancy at 5+ years of age.1They state life expectancy in the mid-Victorian period was not markedly different from what it is today. Once infant mortality is stripped out, life expectancy at 5 years was 75 for men and 73 for women. In 1995 Griffin2produced a comparison of life expectancy of mature men (15+years of age) at different points in history over the last 3000 years (Table 1).

Calculations of life expectancy throughout history

Montagu3excluded from his calculations any who died violently; no such exclusion was made from any of the other figures presented inTable 1. Montagu noted a dip in life expectancy in Roman figures and attributed this to lead plumbing. The change in life expectancy of mature men has not changed as dramatically over 3000 years as might be expected, although this data must of necessity refer to privileged members of society.

Life expectancy of women at the age of 15 years has however changed dramatically over the last 600 years (Table 2) and by a decade and a half since the mid-Victorian period. For men, Rowbtham and Clayton have a point but are incorrect as far as womens life expectancy is concerned.

Life expectancy of mature women taken from Hollingsworth8and OPCS data for England and Wales

Rowbotham J, Clayton P. An unsuitable degraded diet? Part three: Victorian consumption patterns and their health benefits.

Griffin JP. Changing life expectancy throughout history.

Montagu JD. Length of life in the ancient world: a controlled study.

Hollingsworth TH. Demographic study of the British Ducal Families. In: Drake M, editor.

London: Methuen Co; 1969. pp. 73102.

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