Sickness, insurance and health : assessing trends in morbidity through friendly-society records

Edwards, Claudia and Gorsky, Martin and Harris, Bernard and Hinde, Andrew (2003) Sickness, insurance and health : assessing trends in morbidity through friendly-society records. Annales de Démographie Historique, 1 (105). pp. 131-167.

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Abstract

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a large number of working-class men (and a much smaller number of working-class women) sought to protect themselves against the financial risks of sickness and old age by joining friendly societies. Although these organisations have often been studied as cultural institutions and as providers of welfare services, researchers have also attempted to use the surviving records as sources for the study of health and morbidity. In this paper, we report our own efforts to investigate the health experience of individuals belonging to one particular friendly society, the Hampshire Friendly Society, in the south of England. We begin by setting out some of the empirical and conceptual issues associated with the derivation of morbidity trends from health insurance records. We shall then go on to present new findings regarding the effect of short-term factors, such as disease outbreaks and administrative changes, on the pattern of sickness claims; the relationship between age and morbidity; and the different headings under which claims were submitted.