Patterns of mortality in the the Old Order Amish. I. Background and major causes of death

Am J Epidemiol. 1981 Dec;114(6):845-61. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a113255.


The major causes of death were studied in the Old Order Amish people in three settlements in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to determine if lifestyle and genetic isolation altered their mortality risk compared to neighboring non-Amish. The Amish are a conservative religious group who live in farm settlements, use horses for work and travel, exercise vigorously, and avoid cigarettes and alcohol. They are reproductively isolated and highly inbred. Death certificates and Amish censuses were used to determine mortality risks, which were summarized using age-adjusted mortality ratio (MRs). Amish mortality patterns were not systematically higher or lower than those of the non-Amish, but differed by age, sex, and cause. Amish males had slightly higher all-cause MRs as children and significantly lower MRs over the age of 40, due primarily to lower rates of cancer (MR = 0.44, age 40-69), and cardiovascular diseases (MR = 0.65, age 40-69). Amish females MRs for all causes of death were lower from age 10-39, not different from 40-69, and higher over age 69. MRs were not significantly different for all cancer sites combined in Amish women and they had higher cardiovascular mortality ratio aged 70 and over (MR =1.34). Other major causes of death were also examined. Because the Amish and other farming groups have similar mortality patterns, it is suggested that lifestyle may be the primary determinant of the overall mortality patterns in the Amish.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Christianity*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indiana
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Risk
  • Rural Population