Box 1
The reduction in infant and child mortality rates over the last century

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In the early 1900s, socioeconomic status played a less clear role in mortality than today. This was particularly true in urban areas where industrialization contributed to poor environmental and sanitary conditions and the spread of infectious disease. As a result, children raised in rural areas, particularly on large farms, experienced a lower risk of mortality than those in urban areas.Note 1

The reduction in child mortality over the 20th century came along with a broader epidemiological transition that began in the 19th century. This transition was characterized by a shift in disease patterns from high mortality at all ages mostly due to communicable disease to lower mortality mostly concentrated at older ages and mainly as a result of degenerative diseases.Note 2

By 2011, the infant mortality rate in Canada had declined to less than 5% of its 1926 level. The largest declines in childhood mortality have occurred for children aged 1 to 4, from 8.4 deaths per thousand in 1926 to 0.2 deaths per thousand in 2011 (see Figure B1), a reduction of 98%.

Figure B1 Proportion of deaths (per 1,000 population) for selected age groups in Canada from 1926 to 2011

Description for figure B1


  1. Gagnon, A. and N. Bohnert. 2012. “Early life socioeconomic conditions in rural areas and old-age mortality in twentieth-century Quebec”, Social Science and Medicine, volume 75, pages 1,597 to 1,604.
  2. Beaujot, R. and D. Kerr. 2004. Population Change in Canada, Oxford University Press.
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