The effect of gender, on lifespan of humans born before 1900, buried in Prairie Home Cemetery, Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Diane Roethel

 

Abstract

I tested whether females who were born prior to the year 1900, and buried in Prairie Home Cemetery, Waukesha, Wisconsin, lived longer than males born during this time. My study showed that being female did not cause an increase in the overall lifespan of females buried in Prairie Home Cemetery, Waukesha, Wisconsin, who were born prior to 1900 (P = 0.44).

 

Keywords: female, lifespan

 

Introduction

There has been an increase in the length of life, with the eradication of some diseases. Shortly after the year 1900, the total lifespan for both males and females sharply increased, from forty years to sixty years, in 1930 (Wiehl, 1933). I hypothesized that females born before the year 1900 and buried at Prairie Home Cemetery lived longer than males with these same criteria. I hypothesized females would have lived longer because it was the man who worked and went to war in these years.

 

Materials and Methods

On October 12, 2011, at 1000, I conducted my study at Prairie Home Cemetery, Waukesha, Wisconsin. The starting point for my data was determined by spinning a map of the cemetery, and I placed a pen on it while my eyes were closed. I collected birth years and death years on 100 females and 100 males, who were born before the year 1900. This data was then separated into ten different age categories with a range of ten years in each category, beginning with birth-year. Data was entered into an Excel spreadsheet on life expectancy, created by Rebecca Burton, Ph. D., at Alverno College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I graphed and analyzed the data using a one tail, type three, T-test, on Excel for Windows 2007.

 

Results

There was no difference between being female and lifespan (Fig. 1, P =0.44). The mean of the lifespan of a female born before 1900 and buried at Prairie Home Cemetery was 30.34 years, with a standard deviation of 23.12. The mean of the lifespan of a male born before 1900 and buried at Prairie Home Cemetery was 31.78 years with a standard deviation of 22.68.

Figure 1. Mean (+/- S.D.) of age in females and males.

 

Discussion

My data refuted the hypothesis that females would have lived longer than males born before 1900 and buried in Prairie Home Cemetery, Waukesha, Wisconsin. My data was similar to the findings of Thatcher (1999), who found that males and females have an equal chance of dying at any age. This may be because for there to be an increase in life expectancy at any age, there needs to be a decrease in the number of people dying in the age groups past fifty years old (Wiehl, 1933). In the Massachusetts research, from 1789 to 1929, females lived slightly longer than males (Wiehl, 1933). Overall, the difference in lifespan between males and females in the Massachusetts study, from 1789 to 1929, was two years difference (Wiehl, 1933). This evidence is also similar to my data.

There were some limitations to my study, including which subjects to include, as they were buried in two sections of the cemetery. This limited how random my sample size could be. There were also a couple of outliers in my research; they lived well into their nineties or to be past one hundred years old. If I were to repeat this study, I would get data from more than one cemetery in the area. This is a sample of 100 females and 100 males from one cemetery. The additional cemeteries would need to be ones that have been in practice since the 1800s and have had at least 100 male and 100 female burials since that time.

Several of the tombstones of the people included in my research fought in the Spanish-American war or assisted those fighting in the war, during 1898-1902. It was during these years, and in places where mosquitoes were prevalent that the then deadly disease, yellow fever, spread (Lusted, 2010). Prior to eliminating the disease, yellow fever was more of a concern to people in the war than a human enemy (Lusted, 2010). There also was the widespread flu, during 1918. This virus killed more people, regardless of age, sex or race than any war or disease before, or since (Lusted, 2010).

It would also be interesting to study the flu epidemic of 1918 to find out how it impacted life expectancy in the greater Milwaukee metropolitan area.

LITERATURE CITED

Lusted, M.A. (2010). Epic Epidemics. Cobblestone. 31(7), :20. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=khh&AN=53478595&site=ehost-live

 

Thatcher, A.R. (1999). The Long-Term Pattern of Adult Mortality and the Highest Attained Age. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society). 162(1), :5-63. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2680465.

 

Wiehl, D. G. (1933). Trends in Mortality and Life Expectancy. The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly Bulletin. 11(1), :61-72. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3347524.