Unique and definitive is what we feel about our lifetime and this world. But our instinctive self-centeredness gets another perspective to ponder over when we give a deep thought to the question, “how many people have ever lived on this planet?”
And the question doesn’t stop here as it’s not only about how many people have lived before us, but of also about how many have died.
108.2 billion who have ever been born.
The answer to this intriguing question lies with the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). According to the demographic researchers at the PRB till 2015 the number of people ever been born was estimated to 108.2 billion. According to the same estimate, there are roughly 7.4 billion people alive so the number of people who died before us is a whopping 100.8 billion.
More people dead than alive!
That means there are 14 times more people dead than alive! And it would definitely make for one massive army of ghosts, White Walkers, and zombies. To be on the optimistic side it can be said that the living is about 6.8% of the total number of people who ever existed. Considering the people born in the past year and also for simplifying the stats we can round it up to 7%.
We are a part of the 7% so why not live it up to the most.
Hominids walked the earth millions of years ago.
Another good question is how do researchers give such estimates?
The Population Reference Bureau considers the beginning of human history to be 50,000 BC when the modern Homo Sapiens first appeared and takes it as a starting point. But the hominids have walked the earth for millions of years before that so the date is still debatable. It is from the United Nations Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends that the date 50,000 BC is taken.
Life expectancy was up to 10 years lower in the Iron Age.
It is purely on informed speculation to come up with the estimate of how many people were born after that. Human population grew at a slow rate due to the low life expectancy as there were serious issues of food supply, climate changes, lack of medicine, killing each other and other considerable issues. Also, the infant mortality rate was pretty high; estimated 500 deaths per 1000 births.
Population growth chart
The chart from PRB shows how estimated population expanded until 2011.
The devastating black death pandemic lowered the rate of growth.
The lower rate of growth from 1 AD until 1650 AD can be clearly seen. It was mainly due to disturbing events like the outbreak of plague also referred as the Black Death. The great population expansion from the time of the Industrial revolution till today can also be seen. Interestingly, the living population has increased by about 6 times from 1850 till now.
We are the 7%. Let’s make the most of it!
These numbers are not certain and surely fluctuated as the researchers have set a constant rate of population growth and guesstimate the birth rates. However, this debatable estimate still gives us a thought-provoking perspective on our place on this planet that certainly has more dead than living.