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Volume 15, 1882
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Art. LXII.—Is New Zealand a Healthy Country?—An Enquiry with Statistics.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 3rd February, 1883.]

That “National health is national wealth,” has become a firmly fixed article of belief among all modern thinkers. Much has been written upon the resources of New Zealand: authors have described in glowing words its boundless mineral wealth, and the luxuriant fertility of its rich soil. A few have touched upon the healthiness of the climate, but these latter have

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made statements chiefly consisting of vague and shadowy beliefs, and not the results of patient enquiries. Upwards of forty years have come and gone since this colony was founded, and since 1874 the censuses have been so many and so accurate, and the population so large, as to afford us a sufficient supply of facts whereon to base the statements made by us. In the childhood of the colony several army surgeons collected statistics of the healthiness of the troops stationed in it, and compared these with those of our soldiers quartered in other parts of the globe. These statistics, though few, pointed strongly to the fact that the climate of New Zealand was good.

In conjunction with my friend Mr. Frankland I proposed to examine carefully what were the grounds on which this belief was based. We agreed to contribute a joint paper. Subsequently this plan was slightly changed, but the statistics in this paper were all supplied by him, and of their accuracy there can be no question. Mr. Frankland's great mathematical powers and his long and thorough acquaintance with the vital statistics of the colony are an absolute guarantee of their correctness.

Any physician investigating the question whether this colony is or is not healthy, would make search for diseases, old and new; for diseases well known to him and for diseases hitherto unrecognized. He would draw up a list of prevalent diseases, just as a botanist or geologist would prepare lists of plants and rocks.

Subjoined is a list (No. I.) of diseases known to exist in this colony and another (No. II.) of diseases not yet imported, whilst the last list (No. III.) shows the list of diseases peculiar to these islands. Though I have taken great pains and made many enquiries for the purposes of making these lists as accurate as possible, it must be remembered that no such lists as the first two can be perfect. Of one thing we are certain, viz., that all the diseases named in No. I. have actually obtained in New Zealand. It is possible that a few in No. II. may also have existed. These lists are compiled from various sources. The Registrar-General's returns are valuable only for diseases which kill; they take no heed of the others.

An examination of these lists shows us that people coming to this colony have no need to fear that they run a risk of catching new diseases, for the only indigenous diseases are the bite of the katipo, and very rare deaths from the eating of two or three different kinds of poisonous berries. From the Maoris, the original inhabitants, we have not acquired one single disease. They have not one new disease of their own. Earlier writers on the colony talk of a disease called ngerengere, but this is merely a variety of pure leprosy, which is common to all the Polynesian inhabitants of the Pacific isles. It presents no feature worthy of notice, except that it is fast disappearing, and is far less common now than it was forty years ago. Probably

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there are not above twenty-five cases in all New Zealand. This disease has not been communicated to Europeans. It is true leprosy occurs in the colony, but it is the sporadic leprosy obtaining rarely in Great Britain.

The Maoris, the original inhabitants of these islands, never at any time formed a dense population, consequently the soil was never polluted with excreta and the dead as in older countries.

The European emigrants to these bountiful isles, come to lands free from any new disease, unfortunately they have brought most of their own, and in time will bring more; but it is a remarkable fact that in the country itself there is no new disease. Neither soil nor water, nor atmosphere, produce specific disease germs, or new diseases due to other conditions.

Had it been possible to maintain a rigorous and perfect system of quarantine, these isles might have been kept for ever free from typhoid, measles, and other zymotic diseases. It should be one of the chief aims of the Government and the people to prevent the introduction of those not yet brought hither.

List I.

Diseases existing in New Zealand.

Zymotic Diseases.

Typhoid (under a variety of names, as swamp fever, colonial fever, bilious fever, gastric fever, low fever, diarrhœa, dysentery, and probably other aliases).

  • Measles.

  • Rotheln.

  • Scarlet fever.

  • Diphtheria.

  • Group.

  • Erysipelas.

  • Hospital gangrene.

  • Puerperal fever.

  • Hay asthma.

  • Ague.

  • Chickenpox.

  • Cowpox.

  • Roseola.

  • Pertussis or whoopingcough.

  • Influenza.

Chest Diseases.

  • Phithisis, tubercular, fibroid, probably every variety.

  • Pneumonia, every variety.

  • Pleurisy, hydrothorax, empyema.

  • Bronchitis, all forms.

  • Asthma.

Constitutional Diseases.

  • Tuberculo

  • Struma.

  • Syphilis.

  • Rachitis.

  • Chronic rheumatism.

  • Rheumatic fever.

  • Cancer.

  • Gout.

Heart Diseases.

  • All forms.

  • Angina pectoris.

Kidney Diseases.

  • All known forms except parasites.

Suprarenal capsules.

  • Addison's disease.

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Lymphatics and Spleen.

  • Lymphadenoma.

  • Hodgkin's disease.

  • Leucocythæmia.

Skin Diseases.

  • Acne.

  • Pemphigus.

  • Eczema.

  • Psoriasis.

  • Lupus.

  • Urticaria.

  • Mollusca contagiosa.

  • Lichen.

  • Impetigo.

  • Pityriasis versicolor.

  • Herpes.

  • Onychia.

  • Tinea, various forms.

  • Alopecia.

  • Lepra græcorum.

  • Ecthyma.


  • Ascaris vermicularis.

  • Demodex folliculorum.

  • Acarus.

  • Phthereasiasis.

  • Ascaris lumbricoides.

  • Tæna solium.

  • Hydatids.

  • Triocephalus dispar.


  • Insanity, every variety.

  • Epilepsy.

  • Diabetes.

  • Tetanus.

  • Paralysis agitans.

  • Chorea.

  • Facial paralysis, both varieties.

  • Apoplexy due to all known causes.

  • Locomotor ataxy.

  • Hemicrania.

  • Migraine.

  • Exophthalmic goitre.

  • Pseudohypertrophic paralysis.

  • Various forms of paralysis and paresis.

  • Insular sclerosis.

  • Scriveners' palsy.

  • Hysteria.


  • All the forms known to exist.

Liver Diseases.

  • Cirrhosis, common.

  • Tuberculosis.

  • Jaundice.

  • Calculus.


  • Mollities ossium.

  • All common forms of bone and joint disease.

  • Meniéres' disease or labyrinthine vertigo.

  • Cataract.

  • Iritis, pustular corneitis.

  • Glaucoma.

  • Ophthalmia.

  • Dyspepsia, every variety.

  • All varieties of tumour.

  • Alcoholism.

  • Gonorrhœa.

  • Bubo.

  • Soft chancre.

  • Common catarrh.

  • Aneurism.

  • Laryngitis.

  • Goître.

  • Tabes mesenterica.

  • Diarrhœa.

  • Dysentery.

  • Sunstroke.

  • Scurvy.

  • Atrophy.

  • Dental affections.

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List II.

Diseases not known in New Zealand.

  • Typhus fever.

  • Charbon.

  • Cholera.

  • Beriberi.

  • Pellagra.

  • Remittent or intermittent or starvation or relapsing fever.

  • Malaria.

  • Smallpox.

  • Ague, unless actually imported by the individual.

  • Dysentery, unless brought in the person of a sufferer.

  • Dengue.

  • Plague.

  • Aleppo or Delhi boils.

  • Guinea worms.

  • Yams or yaws.

  • Leucoma.

  • Yellow fever.

  • Trichinosis.

  • Madura foot.

  • Favus.

  • Malignant pustule.

  • Hepatic abscess.

  • Acute yellow atrophy of liver.

  • Elephantiasis arabum.

  • Trismus neonatorum.

  • Plica polonica.

  • Crétinism.

  • Zanthelasma vitiligoidea.

  • Hydrophobia.

  • Hydatid.

  • Equinia mitis or grease.

  • Diseases from manufactures, as Sheffielders' asthma, phosphorus necrosis, arsenical copper poisoning, &c.

List III.

Diseases peculiar to New Zealand.

  • Bite of katipo.

  • Disease among Maoris from eating excess of lampreys at wrong season.

  • Poisoning from karaka berries.

  • Cutaneous eruption due to rancid fat of pigeons, peculiar to Maoris.

  • Poisonous mushrooms.

  • Poison of tutu plant.

  • Gastric disturbances arising from the eating of half-dried semi-putrid eels and half-rotten maize, disease peculiar to Maoris.

  • Stroke of Gymnotus electricus (?)

Remarks on the Lists.

It has been stated that smallpox and typhus have both existed in New Zealand, and there are in the Registrar-General's reports lists of deaths due to the latter disease. After careful enquiry, I think that typhus, true typhus as English physicians call it, has not yet appeared. I think the statement that deaths arise from typhus is due to three causes: (1.) Errors in diagnosis. (2.) Inability to distinguish between typhus and typhoid by certain men on the register of practitioners. (3.) The fact that foreign doctors use the terms typhus and typhus abdominalis for the two diseases, and hence a not infrequent source of error.

About rotheln there seems some doubt.

Ague never springs up de novo in any one in New Zealand, it is always imported by the sufferer in his own person.

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Other diseases, as beriberi, pellagra, cholera, yellow fever, starvation fever, have not yet shown themselves. True dysentery is, like ague, imported in the person of the sufferer and is not acquired in the colony.

The only epidemic diseases which trouble us are scarlet fever, typhoid, measles, diphtheria, croup, whooping-cough and influenza. Of these, scarlet fever epidemics are usually mild. Diphtheria is very common and fatal, as elsewhere. Typhoid, sometimes recognized and very often not, goes by many names, e.g., colonial fever, low fever, gastric or bilious fever, blood poisoning, swamp fever, etc. It is a pity that this disease is not called by the graphic name “filth” fever. It spreads so much because New Zealand colonists have scant objection to drinking diluted sewage or having reeking cesspits either directly under or close to their houses. Of this disease no more need be said; deaths and illness from it should not be charged against the climate or soil, but rather to the folly of the people.

Chest diseases.—Of all our diseases, phthisis is the worst, the most deadly. It is more prevalent and severe in the cold wet south than in the drier hotter north. Phthisical immigrants, whether in the north or south, invariably receive great benefit, and many are perfectly cured. As the immense majority of these immigrants come from Great Britain they find the climate most mild and soothing. Their coughs grow easier and less frequent; they gain weight and strength, and even those who are not cured almost invariably have their lives much prolonged.

The deaths from phthisis are high, partly because British physicians strongly recommend these patients to try our climate; but as against this increase we must put on record the fact that thousands of people were imported at public expense and from these many thousands all phthisics were excluded.

Among the New Zealand born, however, phthisis is rife and very fatal. Young colonists when attacked nearly always die.

Cardiac affections appear in the same proportions as in Great Britain.

Liver affections, so prevalent in tropical climates, are here unknown. The commonest form of liver disease is cirrhosis arising from abuse of alcohol.

Nervous disorders.—All forms exist except perhaps two or three of the rarer kinds. Insanity prevails largely; but statistics are not trustworthy, because the unfortunate practice long prevailed in this colony of sending to the asylums all persons suffering from delirium tremens, a class of cases which at home are treated in hospitals.

Parasites.—None peculiar to the colony have been observed. All have been imported. It is doubtful if the tapeworm has gained a hold on the colony. Like hydatid it is probably brought hither in the person of the

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sufferer and is not acquired here. It is singular that hydatids should not exist here, for they are very prevalent in Australia, and dogs are numerous and live in intimate communion with man.

Skin diseases.—Owing to the well-to-do character of the people, the small amount of segregation and the abundance of good food, skin diseases are far lesś common in the colony than at home. A little acne, eczema or psoriasis and liver compose the bulk of the cases.

Constitutional.—The tubercular diathesis is abundant and perhaps assumes a greater prominence because the others are rarer. In young New Zealanders this diathesis far exceeds all the others. Struma exists but in modified forms. The population are so well off, and so abundantly supplied with good healthy food and ample shelter, and lead such healthy out-door lives that they beget a healthy offspring; and to this offspring they give the best of food and raiment. For the same reasons rachitis is but little seen.

Syphilis for some reason or other is of a very mild type. The true hard or Hunterian chancre is but seldom seen and when it is seen is usually imported. Though gonorrhœa is abundant and soft chancre not uncommon, the Maoris, who suffer much from gonorrhœa, very rarely present symptoms of syphilis.

Gout.—A rare disease; one which will probably be almost or quite unknown to young New Zealanders, who in appearance and build show scant tendency to the gouty diathesis, and in habits and mode of life do little to promote the spread of this most unnecessary malady. When gout does appear it is always in the person of an immigrant.

Rheumatism in all shapes is the great scourge of the colonist. Whether the wide spread of the disease and its severity is due to climate, or rather to the hardships and exposure of the settlers, is a question which can be solved only by time and the elimination of those things which specially tend to produce it.

Goitre appears in two mountainous districts. Tabes mesenterica, so-called atrophy, and other childish diseases of defective nutrition are comparatively rare, as is shown in the small mortality.

Dental affections.—The chief feature is the very rapid decay of the teeth, a decay which may be called almost universal among the New Zealand born. This premature decay is seen in the milk and permanent teeth. Its early beginning and its steady progress till all the teeth are affected leads to much pain and indigestion through “bolted” food. The early decay of both sets of teeth is one of the most noteworthy features in New Zealand medicine. I am quite convinced that statistics would show an amount of disease of the teeth that would startle European physicians.

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Alcoholism is a disease that is happily dying out before the spread of civilization, the absence of hardships, the easy attainment of comforts, and the lessening dulness of colonial life.

Remarks on Diseases yet unknown in New Zealand.

A scrutiny of these last reveals the encouraging fact that New Zealand is as yet free from some of the most terrible curses which afflict the human race—viz., smallpox, typhus, cholera, plague, yellow fever. That all malarial fevers are absent. That no healthy inhabitant will get ague or dysentery or be infected by parasites other than those common in Great Britain.

Remarks on Statistical Tables. By F. W. Frankland.

“Frequent comparisons have been made between the general death-rate of New Zealand and the death-rates which obtain in England and other countries; and it has been sought to establish on the basis of this comparison the fact of the salubrity of this country. The fact that the annual number of deaths in New Zealand is 11 or 12 per 1,000 living, and that in England it is 23 per 1,000 living, has been held by some to prove that, whatever may be the reason, the human constitution resists death more successfully here than in the mother-country. Even so high an authority as Dr. Drysdale, who has done so much for the propagation of sound views on hygienic matters, appears to have recently fallen into this error. To expose the fallacy of the reasoning we have referred to, it is only necessary to point out that in every country the liability of an individual to death varies enormously according to the age of the individual. It is, in mathematical language, a function of the age.

“The liability to death is always very high during the first year of life, and decreases with great rapidity till the age of 10 or 12 is attained, when it reaches a minimum. The annual deaths among 10,000 children, aged about 10 or 12, would be fewer than those among 10,000 individuals at any other age of life. With the advent of puberty, the liability to death begins to increase, and, barring a short halt during the early period of manhood, it increases progressively, and with constantly augmenting rapidity, throughout all the rest of life, till in old age it is higher even than in infancy. It follows from this that the general death-rate of a country must depend on the distribution of the population according to age, and that, until this distribution is taken into account, it is absolutely valueless as a test of the real vitality of the inhabitants. A moment's reflection will convince the reader, and a very short consultation of statistical tables will bear the conviction out, that in New Zealand there is a much larger proportion of people at the younger and middle ages of life, than there is in an old and settled country like

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England. The smallness of our general death-rate is, therefore, utterly inconclusive as a test of our real vitality, and it becomes necessary to ascertain the death-rate, not merely en bloc, but at all the separate ages of life. This has been done in the accompanying tables.

“So far as the present writer is aware, only one such comparison has ever been made before for this colony. It is contained in an article ‘On the Additional Premium required for Residence in Foreign Climates,’ by Mr. James Meikle, the eminent Scotch actuary, published in the nineteenth volume of ‘The Journal of the Institute of Actuaries.’ It may, therefore, be well to quote the words in which Mr. Meikle summarized the results he arrived at. ‘From the Census Enumeration,’ he says,*‘which gives the number of lives in existence in March, 1874, and from the number of deaths in the year 1873, I am enabled to show the rate of mortality during each quinquennium of life, and thus to eliminate the effect of immigration, and the consequent irregular distribution of the lives according to age, as compared with the population of this country. The result compares favourably with any other table. It is very much lighter than either the Hm or the Carlisle§. § I have not made any adjustment of the figures in respect of the progressive increase of the population, or for the deaths being those for the year anterior to the census * * * The results show an exceedingly light rate of mortality. When measured by the annual premium for a life assurance, I should imagine that the New Zealand rate would require about 7½ or 10 per cent. less premium than the Hm rate. Before, however, placing much confidence in the results, they would require to be verified at the next census.' The verification which Mr. Meikle here speaks of, we have now accomplished,—and more. It will be seen that we have included in our tables the results of the three last census years, namely,—1874, 1878, and 1881; and it is satisfactory to be able to point out that the larger data we have thus collected, fully confirm his conclusion as to the low rate of mortality which prevails in this colony.”

[Footnote] *‘Journal of Institute of Actuaries,’ vol. xix., p. 291.

[Footnote] † The italics are our own.

[Footnote] †A table founded on the experience of twenty British insurance offices, and accepted as the best exponent of the mortality of assured life.

[Footnote] § A well-known table, accepted as a fairly good exponent of average mortality.

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Mean Population during 1874. Deaths during 1874.
Ages. Persons. Males. Females. Actual No. of Deaths. No. of Deaths per 100 living.
Persons. Males. Females. Persons. Males. Females.
All ages. 315,860. 180,139. 135,721.
Under 1 12,050 6,163 5,887 1,394 751 643 1.57 1.19 1.92
1 to 2 9,481 4,733 4,748 349 165 184 3.68 3.49 3.88.
2 to 3 11,163 5,676 5,487 148 68 80 1.33 1.20 1.46
3 to 4 11,174 5,542 5,632 104 53 51 0.93 0.96 0.91
4 to 5 10,861 5,395 5,466 84 50 34 0.77 0.93 0.62
5 to 10 45,674 22,962 22,712 272 136 136 0.60 0.59 0.60
10 to 15 30,423 15,411 15,012 85 41 44 0.28 0.27 0.29
15 to 20 22,920 11,501 11,419 97 55 42 0.42 0.48 0.37
20 to 25 23,806 12,860 10,946 114 63 51 0.48 0.49 0.47
25 to 30 27,360 16,157 11,203 180 100 80 0.66 0.62 0.71
30 to 35 31,748 20,720 11,028 209 126 83 0.66 0.61 0.75
35 to 40 26,399 18,006 8,393 239 157 82 0.91 0.87 0.98
40 to 45 20,038 13,910 6,128 201 142 59 1.00 1.02 0.96
45 to 50 11,364 7,704 3,660 148 112 36 1.30 1.45 0.98
50 to 55 8,574 5,533 3,041 137 93 44 1.60 1.68 1.45
55 to 60 4,835 2,978 1,857 97 69 28 2.01 2.32 1.51
60 to 65 3,514 2,096 1,418 67 44 23 1.91 2.10 1.62
65 to 70 1,852 1,126 726 75 50 25 4.05 4.44 3.44
70 to 75 1,294 785 509 72 39 33 5.56 4.97 6.48
75 to 80 474 266 208 37 20 17 7.81 7.52 8.17
80 and upwards 227 115 112 39 21 18 1.18 1.26 1.07
Unspecified 629 500 129 13 11 2
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Mean Population during 1878. Deaths during 1878.
Ages. Persons. Males. Females. Actual No. of Deaths. No. of Deaths per 100 living.
Persons. Males. Females. Persons. Males. Females.
All Ages. 41,927. 233,875. 186,052.
4,645 2,719 1,926 1.106 1.162 1.035
Under 1 16,330 8,327 8,003 1,500 822 678 9.19 9.87 8.47
1 to 2 13,570 6,833 6,737 308 162 146 2.27 2.37 2.17
2 to 3 14,685 7,549 7,136 103 64 39 70 .85 .55
3 to 4 13,474 6,746 6,728 75 35 40 .56 .52 .59
4 to 5 12,599 6,367 6,232 39 11 28 .31 .17 .45
5 to 10 60,389 30,205 30,184 176 92 84 .29 .30 .28
10 to 15 46,267 23,368 22,899 101 53 48 .22 .23 .21
15 to 20 33,684 16,682 17,002 95 47 48 .28 .28 .28
20 to 25 35,285 19,352 15,933 177 88 89 .50 .46 .56
25 to 30 34,936 20,244 14,692 203 113 90 .58 .56 .61
30 to 35 32,791 19,576 13,215 197 105 92 .60 .54 .70
35 to 40 32,916 21,160 11,756 298 195 103 .91 .92 .88
40 to 45 26,296 17,427 8,869 254 186 68 .97 1.07 .77
45 to 50 17,223 11,459 5,764 261 189 72 1.52 1.65 1.25
50 to 55 11,000 7,171 3,829 175 127 48 1.60 1.77 1.25
55 to 60 6,647 4,167 2,480 142 93 49 2.14 2.23 1.98
60 to 65 4,613 2,721 1,892 130 84 46 2.82 3.09 2.43
65 to 70 2,601 1,533 1,068 101 59 42 3.88 3.85 3.93
70 to 75 1,602 927 675 96 60 36 5.99 6.47 5.33
75 to 80 839 493 346 84 50 34 10.01 10.14 9.83
80 and upwards 365 190 175 59 30 29 16.16 15.79 16.57
Unspecified 1,815 1,378 437 71 54 17
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Mean Population during 1881. Deaths during 1881.
Ages. Persons. Males. Females. Actual No. of Deaths. No. of Deaths per 100 living.
Persons. Males. Females. Males. Females.
All ages. 493,069. 271,124. 221,945.
5,491 3,247 2,244 1.114 1.198 1.011
Under 1 18,070 9,261 8,809 1,731 987 744 9.58 10.66 8.45
1 to 2 14,984 7,526 7,458 391 204 187 2.61 2.71 2.51.
2 to 3 16,964 8,573 8,391 125 60 65 .74 .70 .77
3 to 4 16,655 8,327 8,328 106 49 57 .64 .59 .68
4 to 5 16,149 8,184 7,965 87 49 38 .54 .60 .48
5 to 10 63,354 34,498 33,856 230 132 98 .34 .38 .29
10 to 15 57,995 29,037 28,958 161 83 78 .28 .29 .27
15 to 20 42,885 21,178 21,707 159 77 82 .37 .36 .38
20 to 25 41,631 22,202 19,429 199 119 80 .48 .54 .41
25 to 30 40,843 24,051 16,792 234 131 103 .57 .55 .61
30 to 35 34,814 20,316 14,498 235 133 102 .68 .66 .70
35 to 40 33,774 20,432 13,342 276 167 109 .82 .82 .82
40 to 45 31,294 20,212 11,082 311 218 93 .9 1.08 .84
45 to 50 21,474 14,051 7,423 269 193 76 1.25 1.37 1.02
50 to 55 14,654 9,607 5,047 219 148 71 1.49 1.54 1.41
55 to 60 7,868 4,882 2,986 172 132 40 2.19 2.70 1.34
60 to 65 6,379 3,830 2,549 167 117 50 2.62 3.06 1.96
65 to 70 3,254 1,890 1,364 129 81 48 3.96 4.29 3.52
70 to 75 2,100 1,182 918 107 67 40 5.10 5.67 4.36
75 to 80 999 585 414 87 45 42 8.71 7.69 10.14
80 and upwards 588 324 264 85 46 39 14.46 14.20 14.77
Unspecified 1,341 976 365 11 9 2
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Aggregate Results for the three Census Years 1874, 1878, 1881.
Aggregate Mean Populations. Aggregate Deaths. Mean Death-rate per 100 Living.
Ages. Persons. Males. Females. Persons. Males. Females. Persons. Males. Females.
All Ages. 1,228,856. 685,138. 543,718. 14,297. 8,332. 5,965. 1.1634. 1.2161. 1.0971.
Under 1 46,450 23,751 22,699 4,625 2,560 2,065 9.957 10.779 9.096
1 to 2 38,035 19,092 18,943 1,048 531 517 2.755 2.781 2.729
2 to 3 42,812 21,798 21,014 376 192 .184 .878 .881 .876
3 to 4 41,303 20,615 20,688 285 137 148 .690 .665 .715
4 to 5 39,609 19,946 19,663 210 110 100 .530 .552 .509
5 to 10 174,417 87,665 86,752 678 360 318 .389 .411 .367
10 to 15 134,685 67,816 66,869 347 177 170 .258 .261 .254
15 to 20 99,489 49,361 50,128 351 179 172 .353 .363 .343
20 to 25 100,722 54,414 46,308 490 270 220 .487 .496 .475
25 to 30 103,139 60,452 42,687 617 344 273 .598 .569 .640
30 to 35 99,353 60,612 38,741 641 364 277 .645 .600 .715
35 to 10 93,089 59,598 33,491 813 519 294 .873 .871 .878
40 to 45 77,628 51,549 26,079 766 546 220 .987 1.059 .844
45 to 50 50,061 33,214 16,847 678 494 184 1.354 1.487 1.092
50 to 55 34,228 22,311 11,917 531 368 163 1.551 1.649 1.368
55 to 60 19,350 12,027 7,323 411 294 117 2.124 2.444 1.598
60 to 65 14,506 8,647 5,859 364 245 119 2.509 2.833 2.031
65 to 70 7,707 4,549 3,158 305 190 115 3.960 4.180 3.643
70 to 75 4,996 2,894 2,102 275 166 109 5.504 5.736 5.166
75 to 80 2,312 1,344 968 208 115 93 9.000 8.557 9.607
80 and upwards 1,180 629 551 183 97 86 15.522 15.446 15.608
Unspecified 3,785 2,854 931 95 74 21
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This shows mortality is not simply a result of climate, but is due to many other causes. Some of these agencies will soon be powerless, whilst others will long exist. To their consideration it is necessary to devote some time, otherwise any person examining these tables will be led into many errors. It is not right to say, as some have said, that our low mortality is due to climate solely, or to abundance of cheap food alone. The mortality of any country is a result of many interacting forces.

Amongst the causes leading to a low death-rate in this colony are the following:—

(1.) Easiness of Struggle for Existence.

To the sparse population of these lands, with their fertile soils and immense mineral wealth, the struggle for existence is an exceedingly easy one. Here all who work and practice some self-denial are able, at little cost to themselves, to obtain all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life. All the young get good food and abundance of milk, so that from childhood to old age there is none of that under-feeding, which, when prolonged for years, as among the poor in other countries, causes a lowered vitality and an enfeebled offspring. Since all classes find large rewards for little labour, adults striving to live undergo few of the worries and hardships and ceaseless anxieties which fall to the lot of the toiling masses throughout Europe. Here we see the incessant struggle to keep “the wolf from the door” replaced by the sufficiency for a “rainy day.”

Few of the farming, trading, or professional classes undergo much mental worry, and therefore do not break down from disappointment or over-anxiety. Moreover, the moderate toil and by no means hurtful self-denial and the general speedy getting of riches beget a continuous cheerfulness, by enabling large numbers to obtain luxuries for their sick and suffering—such luxuries as a change of air, some weeks' holiday, the long rest so often prescribed by the doctor—and, except in these lands, too seldom obtainable. It also enables others who have chosen an unsuitable or unhealthy mode of life easily and fearlessly to change it.

(2.) Artificial Selection.

During several years many thousand people were specially picked in Great Britain for importation to this colony. None over the age of forty-five were taken. Only children and young and middle-aged adults were picked. All the emigrants underwent a certain amount of medical inspection, and though some unsatisfactory people were brought out, yet many were rejected, and the immigrants as a whole were a well-chosen healthy lot of people. Certainly they were healthier far than any like number of free immigrants.

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Under a system of free immigration the people are specially chosen; and under a system of assisted emigration a like selection obtains, for colonists as a rule send home money for the purpose of bringing out those of their friends who are strong enough and healthy enough “to rough it,” whilst they anxiously dissuade those of their friends who, being in ill health, might be unable to provide for themselves and be a burden to colonists. As a rule, too, the people who migrate are those who are strong and healthy, who feel that they are able and willing to rough it. Early colonists are a specially picked lot, for only the strongest and healthiest, only those with the toughest constitutions and the most venturesome dispositions would leave Home comforts for colonial hardships. Delicate men and sickly women generally would eschew all risk of discomfort and remain in their comfortable homes.

As against this selection there must be recognized the fact that year by year this colony is growing in favour as a health resort and that hence there is a selection against the colony, in the shape of consumptive, rheumatic and other invalids flocking hither in search of health. This unfavourable selection is undoubtedly an important factor directly as it affects the parents themselves and more remotely as they transmit some or all of their maladies to their children.

(3.) Large Proportion of adult Males.

The large proportion of adult males in the colony will favourably affect the death-rate, as does also the small proportion of aged persons.

(4.) Abundance of good Clothing.

The general prosperity allows even the poorest to be warmly clad, and hence all are protected from the effects of cold and heat and damp. The ragged tattered coats and trousers, the much-torn threadbare garments which cover the poor people in Europe, are here not seen. The children of our poorest have clothes which are at least warm and continuous, not merely loosely connected rags with large interspaces. Our poorest can all obtain stout boots and warm socks and woollen garments for their children—a striking contrast to the almost-naked plight of thousands of poor little frozen children in Great Britain. This widespread distribution of warm clothing saves the lives of numbers of children.

(5.) Abundance of wholesome Food.

The cheapness of breadstuffs and potatoes and the low price of meat, combined with general prosperity, give to all abundance of good wholesome food. The low cost of the production of the raw material offers scant inducement for adulteration. Good milk is cheaply bought in the largest towns. This constant supply of sound wholesome food maintains a healthy condition of body, which wards off most of the diseases arising from defective or mal-nutrition.

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Experts in social science aver that the death-rate of large classes in Europe is attributable to their being habitually underfed. The enormously high death-rate of those earning the lowest wages (such as workers in silk earning only 2s. 7½d. a week; kid glovers, 2s. 2d.; stocking weavers, 2s. 6½d.; needlewomen, 2s. 7d.), proves that long-continued semi-starvation is an important factor in increasing the death-rate. In France among the rich 68 per 1,000 of all deaths were due to tubercular diseases, but amongst the poor and underfed the rate rose to 230 in 1,000.

(6.) Large Proportion engaged in Agriculture.

This means that an unusually large portion of our people lead healthy out-door lives, breathe fresh clear air, live all their days in the freely-blowing breezes and bask in the strength-giving sunshine. We have no huge cities with dense overcrowding; our largest towns have a population living comparatively far apart. We have no dark dens, no life-destroying alleys; our streets are wide.

(7.) Sparsity of Population.

The scattered condition of the people, noticeable not only among the agriculturalists but also in the towns. The absence of that constant overcrowding so fatal among older civilizations, which leads to the chronic illhealth of the poor in large European cities and to the rapid spread of all infectious and contagious diseases and conduces so powerfully to that chief scourge of our race, viz., phthisis. Children in our towns look nearly as healthy as those in the country.

(8.) Paucity of Manufactures.

With the increase of “local industries” there must inevitably be an increase in the death-rate. Not to quote such vivid cases as phosphorus poisoning and necrosis among matchmakers; or Sheffield grinders' phthisis; or arsenical or copper poisoning; or woolsorters' disease; or brassfounders' ague; or, flinteutters' or needleworkers' or filemakers' chest disease, and a host besides, the rise of manufactures must cause many deaths. Contrast the pallid wan faces, the bowed heads, the feeble sickly look of the crowds of factory hands in Great Britain, with the healthy look of our town dwellers. Or come nearer home, to Melbourne, and no one can question the depressing effect of manufactures on the people. Apart too from this widespread deterioration of the race there is always a certain percentage of deaths due to factory accidents. The absence of manufactures shows itself in a lessened death-rate.

(9.) Small Amount of Mining.

As mining developes, so will chest diseases multiply. Coalminers in England suffer terribly from bronchitis, phthisis, pneumonia, and other

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chest affections. Cement-workers suffer much, and so do all engaged in the making of pottery. With the multiplication of mines will come multiplicity of accidents and deadly disasters.

(10.) Our great Distance from the busy Haunts of Men.

Separated as we are by thousands of miles of ocean and fresh breezes we are necessarily in less danger of catching our neighbours' diseases.

(11.) Soil.

Apart from the foregoing causes of a lessened death-rate must be noted the effect of soil and climate. These “Summer Isles of Eden lying in dark purple seas” possess almost everywhere the most perfect natural drainage. The swamps are few, and are fast disappearing. They seem almost harmless. Among the white people malarious fevers are not caught, though many dwell on the edge of these swamps. Men work in them and never get ague as in the fens at Home or in the Maremma in Western Italy, or jungle fever as in Asia and Africa. Colonists work and live among swamps and in forests, and get no evils except rheumatic and chest complaints. They dig in swamps, but the black upturned humus, though composed of decaying and decayed vegetable matter, brings them no harm. “No flat malarian world of reed and rush” troubles the colonist. Neither does the soil contain other evils for man. The water flowing through swamps leaves it full perhaps of decaying organic matter, but free from germs or parasites hurtful to man. The soil and vegetation contain no parasites peculiar to New Zealand, nothing like Bilharzia hæmatobia or Guinea worm. As the black population had invaded these isles only a few centuries and was always sparse and had few diseases, the soil was scarcely, if at all, polluted, and consequently we—the white people—when we dig or plough, upturn a virgin soil, and not, as in many countries, a soil full of deadly organisms.

(12.) Climate.

The climate of these islands, lying in the temperate zone, presents few features of note. Stretching as they do through many a league of latitude, lying in the path of the antitrades, with a lofty backbone of mountains running through each island, the climate is exceedingly equable in each district, though that of the districts varies greatly. The changes of climate in each have been carefully noted for many years past, and these records are embalmed in the pages of these volumes. For our purpose the chief points worthy of note are the equability of the various districts,—e.g., the continuous dryness and heat of Hawke's Bay and the raininess of Westland, and the cold of Southland. There are no dangerous siroccos or typhoons, or pamperos: no pestilential deadly breezes. The winds flowing from the uninhabited antarctic regions, or from the equator, waft to us no diseases. The continuous heat of the hottest districts is cold when compared with

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torrid climates, and the cold of the south is not extreme. The constant winds blow away all accumulating odours, and keep the atmosphere ever pure.

Phthisical invalids from Great Britain on arrival here always improve. They lose their coughs, grow stronger, and in very many cases recover. Immigrants acquire no new disease due to climate. Those coming from the tropics always gain new life and vigour. Our statistics prove, apart from disturbing causes, that the climate is excellent and conduces to a general lengthening of life. Whether it really conduces to very old age, and is really invigorating to those born in it, are still open questions. The important question what diseases most prevail must be left to a future monograph.


Mr. Frankland's statistics show that New Zealand possesses the lowest death-rate of any country in the world; and that the conditions favourable to life are common to all ages. We have seen that New Zealand possesses only a moderate number of the known diseases, that many of the most deadly are always absent, and that there are no new ones. To the enquiry, “Is New Zealand a healthy country?” we have brought ample proof to show that it is as yet the healthiest on the face of the globe. As the country becomes more populous, the death-rate will increase, unless the people make earnest and continuous efforts to lower it. Even the present death-rate might be greatly lessened, by a little care and a little cost, if we saved lives by preventing the spread of typhoid, measles, scarlet fever, and phthisis.