Why We Live 40 Years Longer Today Than We Did in 1880

The golden age of medicine—in one chart

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were a golden era of American health innovation. Breakthroughs like germ theory, antibiotics, and widespread vaccination, as well as major public-health advances in sanitation and regulation, neutralized many long-leading causes of death. Life expectancy skyrocketed as a result, but brought with it new demons. For the past 50 years, medical innovation has focused less on eradicating disease and more on managing chronic conditions. Does this indicate a slowdown in medical progress and a coming plateau in life expectancy? Or have we merely hit a lull before the next wave of major fixes?

Hover over the dots to see more data

Presented by

Joe Pinsker is an assistant editor at The Atlantic. He has written for Rolling StoneForbes, and Salon.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Health

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In