Health

ANZAC to now - medical improvements since the First World War

4th April 2018

As you were probably taught in high school, World War I has had a significant effect on the modern world. In fact, some historians argue that it triggered the start of many breakthroughs in medical science, which we take for granted today.


Although World War II is well known in popular culture as the most catastrophic war in history, World War I actually saw almost twice the amount of Australian soldier fatalities.

Figures from the Medical Journal of Australia show that 60,000 Australians died in the war, whilst 156,000 were wounded. Some of the ailments from the Great War included dysentery, trench foot, trench mouth, pneumonia, frostbite and tuberculosis, as well as gas poisoning and shell shock.

How has medicine changed in the last 100 years?

With countless casualties being admitted to hospital during World War I, it forced many doctors and nurses to challenge themselves to come up with new medical solutions that had never been tried before. According to a smh.com.au article on the subject, “amid the death and horror, combat has also ushered in breakthroughs in the treatment and care of the sick and injured.”

Medical practitioners, many of whom have followed in the footsteps of these World War I doctors and nurses, have introduced many lifesaving vaccinations over the last 100 years. As such, surgery and recovery times have improved drastically, water-borne diseases have reduced due to better sanitation and clean water, organ transplantations have saved the lives of countless people and life-saving medications like antibiotics have been introduced... the list of medical advances really is endless.

What is the life expectancy in Australia now?

To truly understand how far medicine has come since World War I, consider the following statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

  • From 1997 to 2014, potentially avoidable death rates dropped by 44%
  • Australian women are now enjoying a life expectancy of 84.5 years, whilst for men it is 80.4 years. This is around 33-34 years longer than the life expectancy in 1881-1890.
  • That means Australia has the 7th highest life expectancy for males, and the 9th highest for females in the world - pretty impressive right?

With a longer life expectancy and Australians now enjoying a better quality of life, it’s important to ensure that your family would be financially taken care of if something were to happen to you. That’s where life insurance comes in, which will provide a lump sum payout to your family in the case of death or a terminal illness. Visit our life insurance section to find out more.

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