Ageing, sickness and health in England and Wales during the mortality transition

Harris, Bernard and Gorsky, Martin and Guntupalli, Aravinda and Hinde, Andrew (2011) Ageing, sickness and health in England and Wales during the mortality transition. Social History of Medicine, 24 (3). pp. 643-665. ISSN 0951-631X

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Abstract

During the second half of the nineteenth century, friendly-society actuaries became increasingly concerned about an apparent increase in recorded morbidity. They attributed this increase to changes in sickness behaviour and a decline in the societies' ability to police sickness claims. These arguments have been echoed by a number of historians but others have suggested that the increase represented a real change in sickness experience. This paper addresses these arguments in three ways. It begins by exploring contemporary debates over morbidity change between 1870 and 1914. It then revisits the data on which many of these arguments were based. Finally, it presents new data from a recent study of the Hampshire Friendly Society, which shed fresh light on the pattern of age-specific morbidity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.