Country Listing

Uruguay Table of Contents


Infant Mortality and Life Expectancy

The infant mortality rate was 48.6 per 1,000 live births in 1975. In the first half of the 1980s, it fell to 37.6 per 1,000-- low by Latin American standards but still almost twice the rate of Chile and Costa Rica. In the second half of the decade, however, infant mortality began to decline to levels close to those of the latter two countries: in 1986 it was 27.7; in 1987, 23.8; in 1988, 20.3; and in 1990, 22. The increasing share of government spending devoted to infant health care and nutrition programs appeared to have been one reason for this sharp improvement.

The average life expectancy at birth in 1990 was seventy years for men and seventy-six years for women, only slightly behind Chile, Costa Rica, and Argentina. The mortality rate remained just below 10 per 1,000 population in the 1980s. The leading causes of death in 1985 included circulatory disease (40.2 percent), tumors (22.6 percent), trauma (4.1 percent), respiratory disorders and infections (3.8 percent), perinatal complications (2.4 percent), infectious diseases and parasites (2.4 percent), suicide (1.0 percent), and cirrhosis of the liver (0.9 percent).

In the late 1980s, Uruguay did not remain exempt from the worldwide epidemics of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and drug addiction among youth. Although homosexuals have been able to lead a relatively safe existence in Montevideo without fear of official persecution since the return of democracy in 1985, AIDS has become a greater concern. According to the Ministry of Public Health, by the end of June 1990 there had been 129 cases of AIDS in Uruguay since 1983, when it was first detected. Of those cases, 100 were from Montevideo and 29 from the rest of the country. Fifty-nine of the cases were contracted inside Uruguay, whereas seventy of the victims caught the virus outside the country. One hundred and seventeen of the cases were men; twelve were women. An additional 627 individuals were found to be carrying the virus, without having yet shown symptoms of the disease. In the 1983-89 period, sixty-five people were known to have died of complications resulting from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In 1989 Uruguay still enjoyed the image of a "clean" country insofar as drugs were concerned. In response to some significant negative signs, however, the government formed the National Board for the Control of Drug Trafficking and Narcotics Abuse in January 1988. The board included representatives from the office of the president and the ministries of public health, education and culture, and interior. It found that drug addiction grew continuously in Uruguay in 1988. The number of adult drug addicts had more than doubled from 321 in 1983 to 697 in 1987; the number of children addicted to drugs had quintupled from 62 in 1983 to 292 in 1987. According to the Ministry of Public Health, the drug consumer was predominantly single, with good family relations, and the majority had attended secondary school; half of the total were employed. The most commonly abused drug was marijuana, followed by amphetamines and industrial-use inhalants; cocaine and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) were also included on the list, but to a lesser extent.

Data as of December 1990