I was curious to see whether 2016 was really as bad as it felt in terms of notable deaths and created a heat-map of notable births, deaths, and average ages of deaths as indicated on Wikipedia’s various year pages from 1900 to 2016.
In looking at the first third, we see that average age of notable death is going up which seems in line with the increasing life expectancy over the years.
Notable deaths were pretty sparse in the early half of the 1900s, but one has to wonder if this just a function of how sparse information was for the period and how difficult notability would be to garner at that point in time.
While the latter half of the century had more deaths, by the early 2000s, things seem to decline.
With that decline in mind, that’s probably why this year has seemed so terrible in recent memory
Looking only at 2000 – 2016, notably deaths seem to be drastically increasing.
Something that might stand out to you is 2011s drastically low average age of death. A close up of the 2000 – 2016 period further highlight the tragedy of September 2011.
On September 7, 2011 a plane carrying a Russian Hockey team crashed killing all players on board.
The final section, “Notable births”, seems to generally increase over time, possibly again due to the easy of gaining notability through quicker spread of information. Unsurprisingly, there are very few notable entries for those born after 2000 due to the fact that these individuals have yet to have live enough of a life to do anything notable.
Those born in the 90s are starting to turn up on the wikipedia year summaries, but there is a strangely quiet space in 1994.
Other interesting things to note are the general trend across the months for death and age.
The general idea that winter months tend to be harsh on the old seems to echo in the data with January and February showing higher deaths as well as higher average age of death for those months.
So how unusual was 2016?
I decided to restrict the look back to what I would consider people’s recent memory. The early half of the 20th century hardly seemed appropriate.
From a simple chart, 2016 doesn’t seem too far out there, particularly standing next to 1979.
It is still almost 2 standard deviations away from the mean for the period though.
When we further restrict the window to exclude the tumultuous 70s and 80s, it becomes even more unusual.
Finally, for the 2000s, it is incredibly unusual.