Visualizing Mortality History

Hans Rosling, a guru of data animation, is at it again. Here is a very cool video showing 200 years of mortality/wealth progress in just four minutes:

(HT: Peter Siegelman)

John Wolfe

If only every teacher was like him...

Eric M. Jones

Great stuff. Everyone should view this. Don't miss his other pieces on

If ONLY I could slow this up and stretch it out. It exceeds the speed limit for my brain....


Another great video of Mr. Rosling can be seen in this TED talk:


Furthermore, this begs the question, can we compare socialism to those who say that the education gap should be fixed by moving resources from top students to under-performing students in that rather than bringing the bottom performers up, you bring the top performers down?

Daniel F.

Amazing, great work.


Beautiful. Elegant. Understandable. Provoking.

This incredible ability to fashion information in such a way is one thing that separates the greats teachers from the wannabes.

Truly a master.

I remember years ago standing in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, with my jaw on the floor. I had never been exposed to genius before. I realized that even if I had three lifetimes to live, I could not accomplish what he had accomplished--especially in his masterworks.

Same here.


Imagine if one wealthy/healthy country adopted another not so wealthy/healthy country.


Whoa - what European country dropped below the x-axis at ~2:12/1941??


Interesting, but the wealth gap and health gap both seem to have grown in absolute terms. I tend to be an optimist, but I think he overplays it a bit.


The Gapminder site is a wonderful venture! It's part of a recent wave of improved data sources. The World Bank have impressive interactive graphs with lots of data too, and the OECD are using the same motion charts as Gapminder. Interesting times!

Peter Basch

Masterpiece of infographics.
Curious - it didn't divide countries up by economic system, but it looks like the big socialist countries went high on health before going high on income, whereas the more capitalist countries travel more closely to the diagonal. Did anyone else see that, or am I making it up?


I don't like that the x-axis is exponential. I think and hope it was done that way for convenience/spacing reasons, but I think it distorts the income differences (if you have 3 points, with one in the exact middle of the other two, that middle point is actually more similar to the point on the left than the point on the right, despite being illustrated as equal distance to both).

Eric M. Jones


In 1939 the Nazis invaded Western Poland and soon the Russians invaded Eastern Poland. The killing (and Red Army conscription) was enormous. The Jews were 1/3 or so of the population and huge numbers died, either in fighting or concentration camps. This was a blood-bath.

So that's my guess.


I suspect Poland was the European country that fell so rapidly in 1941.

Robert Moser

I wish, since he'd pointed out the effects of WWI & the flu epidemic, he'd pointed out the effects of the Cultural Revolution on China as well. That was a pretty big bounce on the graph, and I'm sure plenty of people watching wondered what that was!


Great infographic and presentation, until he mentioned "converging world." That's certainly true of human mortality rates, but not of wealth, which shows an immense divergence along the X-axis over the past 200 years.


In 1942 you can see one country going bellow the y axis (years). Did some people have negative years?

I really enjoyed the presentation. Thank you very much!


Lots of problems here - Come on Freakonomic fans, where's your skepticism? Firstly, isn't longevity data skewed and misleading due to the dramatic influence of infant mortality on the mean? And how about the assumption that longevity = health in the first place? What did it mean to have $400 income several hundred years ago? Is this adjusted? Futhermore, is it meaningful to separate the population on such arbitrary clusters as 'countries'? Or is that just to grab viewers and reinforce populist ideas? The section where he shows the disparity of different provinces in China reveals this to be meaningless..

Curtis Larimer

He explains how war and disease cause countries to drop in life expectancy but I noticed that the countries are bouncing all the time. What causes this?


I am with Scooter. There are too many issues not addressed and so the presentation looks good but also looks as though it is in service to a kind of optimism of infinite growth and technological salvation. Why the exponential axis on the wealth and linear axis on health? Doesn't this simply distort the true disparity and provide a kind of curve suggesting a cause for optimism? If one were to map numbers of human deaths against wealth over the years, the curve would appear to suggest that the more wealthy countries become the more death is required, but this would simply be a by product of increased population and better factored in as a percentage. Similarly enfolding infant mortality gives a false impression of the health indicator. Finally, why not begin further back when people with less wealth lived longer then they did during the middle ages or early industrial age? Such date would show a curve sloping downward and then rebounding. Yea, too many variables left unattended in the presentation of information in service to a predetermined conclusion.