40,000 people dying every day?

In Blue Öyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper they say that 40,000 men and women die every day.

  1. On average, how many people currently die worldwide every day?

  2. On average, how many people died worldwide every day in 1976, when the song was released?

  3. In what year were there an average of 40,000 deaths per day?

According to Wolfram Alpha there are now 154,995 deaths per day.

I can’t get #2 working, I got a figure once but it was in the order of 300 million which I think is * 1976. Maybe someone which better search skills can best me.

Simple math, cue the back of envelope. Let’s say the population is 7 billion, and average lifespan is 60 years. 60*365= 21,900 days (the heck with leap years). 7billion/21,900 = 319,634.7

Of course, in a lot of the world, (a) much of the population is very young; and (b) life expectancy can be more or less than 60 years. So allowing for (a) to outweigh (b) I’d guess about 250,000 die each day.

Adjust for the poulation being about 4 or 5 billion back in the 70’s and medicine being worse (shorter life expectancy) say the death rate was about 150,000 to 200,000 per day.

Working backward, 40,000*21,900 = 876 million. Wikipedia says the world population hit about 1 billion back in 1804, so I guess Blue Öyster Cult’s singing to their 1776 audience. Or, the number fitted the meter of the song…

much of the individual country data for the year 1976 seems to be missing from the US Census Bureau site, but i noticed that apparently Brazil alone had a million deaths that year.

Roughly 150,000 people die every day; roughly 115,000 died every day in 1976. Of these, some number were children, not “men and women,” but it’s hard to get cumulative data on youth mortality (they usually report infants, children under five, 15 to 24, etc.). Given the fact that people under 19 are roughly a third of the population, the difference between the infant mortality rate and the crude death rate, and the propensity of teenagers for getting killed, 40,000 would not surprise me. The last time only 40,000 people died each day? I can’t imagine; the death rate has fallen far faster than population has risen. Back in 1750, when the world population was a tenth of what it is now, you’d still have to reduce the death rate to 1955 standards to get down to 40,000. The death rate probably wasn’t dropping that fast way back when, so maybe if you go back to the medieval period, it evens out (or maybe not, by my calculations, a death rate only four times today’s would result in 40,000 deaths per day). One problem is, we have no idea what the annual death rate was then – we don’t even have annual numbers of any kind; it seems to me that it varied a lot, what with plagues, famines, and such.

Are you sure that Blue Öyster Cult meant worldwide? Maybe they were talking about one particular region.

40K per day means 14.6M per year, or just over a billion for 70 years. Wikipedia says that was the population of Africa in 2009.

Or maybe they’re only talking about suicides?

It looks like someone has covered this. (WHO data on suicides suggest the worldwide toll there may be approaching 3,000 daily currently, but there’s no way it was ever close to 40K.)

Short answer: “Forty thousand men and women every day” just flows better as a lyric than any more rigorous figure.

No, I’m certain that BOC was wanting to be very precise in their demographics, and did extensive research to make sure that they were not giving out spurious information.
Certain of it.


Best wishes,

Well, even it’s more than 40K the lyric is accurate. 40K people do die each day… then some more die later that day.