It will never be possible to completely calculate the toll in human lives that was paid during the First World War. Battlefield deaths, civilian deaths, and deaths due to outbreaks of diseases cost millions of lives, all around the world. The short term impact was devastating, but through the long term the war may have had negligible demographic consequences.
Accurate numbers for deaths are difficult to calculate. It is believed that between 9-10 million military men were killed during the war. The calculations are further complicated when attempting to determine civilian dead. Beckett notes that one calculation for Britain, France Germany and Austria-Hungary yields a civilian death toll of 3.7 million and a birth deficit of 15.3 million. Another calculation yields a number between 20 and 24 million. These losses do not take into consideration the dead of Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania or any of the Balkan nations. They also do not contain the 1.5 million Armenian victims of Turkish genocide.
Disease was a major cause of death, especially civilian deaths, during the First World War. Typhus was widespread throughout the Eastern Europe, killing 135,000 to 160,000 in Serbia during the winter of 1914-1915 and 1.5 million in Russia by 1920. There were Cholera outbreaks on the Italian Front in 1915. The most devastating disease during these years, however, was a pandemic outbreak of influenza. Beginning in army camps in the United States in March of 1918, the disease quickly spread around the globe. By mid-1919, 675,000 Americans had died from the disease, 166,000 Frenchmen, 174,000 Germans, 228,000 British citizens, and possibly up to 300,000 Africans. Additionally, 12 to 16 million died in India, even though India was not directly affected by the war.
The long-term demographic effects were wide ranging. In France, life expectancy in 1918 was similar to what it was before the war began and the life expectancy for men over military age actually increased. Although the birth...