Vital statistics are collected by local, regional, state, and national governments in order to provide information about population, birth rates, death rates, marriages, divorces, and disease issues. In some definitions, "Vital statistics" are limited to medical issues, such as birth and death rates from various causes. In other cases "Vital statistics" can be expanded to include marriage and divorce, crime and punishment, diseases in the living, and accident rates.
But vital statistics are generally classically defined as reports of birth, death, fetal death, marriage and divorce.
The mortality rates for infants, for example, along with the causes of death, indicate the health of the town, region,or nation. Information is provided to determine whether a particular disease is becoming an epidemic, or whether investigation into some environmental cause for illness must be undertaken.
Once vital statistics are collected and aggregated, studies can be done to determine medical and social trends and to collect specific information by age, gender, marital status and other classification. Aggregating this information into various groupings, such as regional, by race or ethnicity, or by age, and tracking changes over time allows identification of trends, increases or decreases. This information can be used to search for environmental, social or other factors which might be contributing to the trend, the increase or the decrease in activity.
As a result, planning for everything from law enforcement to epidemic response is enabled. Anything that the governments do for people is based on population and other data from vital statistics. Anything that involves the rights of the people, such as assigning the number of representatives that a state is allowed in the House of Representatives, or providing adequate access to voting locations and materials is derived from vital statistics.
Tracking patterns in the movement, decline and growth of the population allows for better planning to accommodate the movement and growth. As the population ages, or is refreshed by a rising birthrate, the governments are given a heads up that schools or more elderly care services will be needed.
In collecting, filing and protecting the documents that support the vital statistics summary, the system also provides the definitive proof of marriage, birth, or death required in order to prove citizenship, make claims against insurers or estates, and to prove marital legality or divorced standing.
But the most well known function of collecting vital statistics is to monitor the well being and health of the population.