Since the early 1960s notification rates for tuberculosis in England and Wales for the whole population have been influenced by high rates in certain ethnic groups. Using data based on country of birth from the British (Thoracic and) Tuberculosis Association surveys of 1965 and 1971, and based on ethnic origin from the Medical Research Council surveys in 1978/79 and 1983, rates for the white ethnic group have been estimated at those four times, and compared with the published rates for the whole population in 1953, when only a very small proportion was of non-white ethnic origin. Between 1953 and 1983 the notification rate for the white ethnic group fell from 122.2 to 11.3 per 100,000 for males, an annual decline of 7.7%, the corresponding rates for females being 90.1 and 5.8, an annual decline of 8.8%. The greatest annual declines occurred between 1953 and 1965, 9.4% for males and 11.2% for females. The annual declines in the most recent period, 1978/79 to 1983, were 6.9% for males and 7.3% for females. In both sexes the decline was greatest in the 15-24 year age group and least in the oldest age group, and this has led to a change in the age pattern of annual notification rates. The highest rates in both sexes occurred in young adults in 1953 but in the oldest age groups in 1983. There is however no evidence of any cohort experiencing an increase in notification rate with increasing age.
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