PUBLIC HEALTH AND VITAL STATISTICS 50o
the duration of the reproductive functions, and the premature
strain on the latter tends to their earlier cessation. The
climacteric is advanced, with all the corresponding results of
earlier degeneration, and we thus obtain a more rapid vital
cycle involving premature senility. As regards the individual, as
will be seen later on, an enormous sacrifice is also incurred in the
loss of maternal and infant life. On the other hand, the rapid
succession of the generations, probably five or more in a century,
is favourable to the process of adjustment to an environment
that is subject to constant changes: we may see the results in
the rapid recuperation of the people after famine and epidemics,
and possibly in the relative immunity they possess to some of
the chief causes of mortality.
With respect to nutrition, it cannot be doubted that the Defective
quality and nature of the food of the majority leaves much to nutrition.
be desired, and on this the measure of vital resistance largely
depends, while the quantity available appears to influence the
birth-rate in a marked degree. These combined effects are
strongly emphasized in times of scarcity and famine, with con-
sequent radical modification in the number, the vitality, and
the age constitution of the population. Under ordinary con-
ditions, the essential proteid (nitrogenous) element available is
largely diminished by waste in all vegetable food, and primitive
methods of cooking and digestive debility add to the loss.
These disabilities are greatly enhanced in sickness, when bulky,
dry, and ill-cooked food cannot be taken, and this is a factor
in the heavy mortality and the economic loss from prostra-
tion. Finally, poverty, of which sickness and mortality are
perhaps the chief causes, has a direct effect on the resources in
food, clothing, and housing, and on the standard of comfort,
and so of 'resistance,' while it affects detrimentally the power
to achieve measures of amelioration.
Coming now to the general environment, its special charac- The social
teristics may be briefly indicated under three heads: religious environ-
and moral, social, and physical. The whole tone of religious flnence of
thought, with its philosophy of fatalism, is against the indivi- religion
dualistic self-assertion necessary to success in the struggle for tom.
existence; it is opposed to co-operation for civic ideals; and it
promotes indifference to life. Evidence of this is seen in the
now suppressed practices of the sacrifice of widows (sati) and
female infanticide, and in the treatment of women in child-bed.
Disastrous effects on a larger scale frequently follow on the
congregation of vast numbers at places of pilgrimage, where
the rites involve overcrowding, exposure, and the consumption