Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/386

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men, notwithstanding much recent evidence to the contrary. The constant use of actuarial tables, both in business practise and in the statutes governing the maintenance of reserves by life-insurance companies, tends to give a certain fixity-and authority to such tables which they derive from no natural law.

The recent medico-actuarial investigation of the experience of 43 American companies, for example, shows a marked improvement since the quinquennium 1885-1890, among the younger-age groups, and a distinct deterioration among those over age 60.

Any assumption that either the death-rate or the span of life is a fixed quantity necessarily involves the postulate that either the conditions affecting the mortality are unchanging, or that each change is neutralized and balanced by some other change, thus keeping the rate in equilibrium.

As a matter of fact, the general death-rate throughout the civilized world has been falling for several centuries, although there is no evidence that the span of life has increased within recent years, the lowered death-rate resulting largely from the saving of lives in the younger age-groups.

That these movements of mortality are not beyond the control of man is shown by this lowering of the death-rate in the age-groups most affected by the communicable diseases which have recently yielded to the attacks of science. That science can likewise influence the mortality from diseases resulting from faulty living-habits or the mere wear and tear of existence, can not be questioned, and the alleged mysterious fixity of the death-rate or of the span of life should not be held up as a bugaboo to restrain such efforts.

That the mortality in the average life-insurance company is far higher than it need be, and could be lowered, even among good, average insured lives, by improved living-habits, is shown by the experience of the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution.

This remarkable exhibit shows that in the institution mentioned, two large bodies of lives, almost equal in numbers, and homogeneous except for the use of alcohol, moved alongside of each other for forty-four years, and that one group, the abstainers, at all times exhibited a markedly superior vitality to the other group—the non-abstainers—the total difference in favor of the abstainers during the period covered being 27.4 per cent., although the mortality among the general, or non-abstaining class was only 91 per cent, of that expected according to the British Om Table, representing the experience in 63 British offices. This is not an isolated experience, as recent British and American experiences show an even greater difference in favor of the abstainer.

Now it is fair to assume that if, by educational methods, a company could influence 10 per cent, of its policyholders to lead a careful hy-