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Why is the terminology of death so confusing? Volume 10, issue 6, Juin 2014

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Author
Médecin généraliste, Lyon

The longevity of man is a variable contained between markers which characterize the species. No one knows a priori the number of his personal life expectancy, but it is certainly within this range from 65 to 125 years. Life expectancy is an environmental data: it is the environment that changes the duration of life span and therefore life expectancy. The mortality rate – the percentage of deaths compared to the number of individuals of a given population in a given period – is a term of epidemiology evaluating and comparing health in different countries. Lethality refers exclusively to people affected by the disease that is being studied: for example, the lethality of some cancers has declined dramatically thanks to widespread screening, but their mortality has seen little or no decrease.