Edwards, Claudia, Gorsky, Martin, Harris, Bernard and Hinde, Andrew
Sickness, insurance and health: Assessing trends in morbidity through friendly society records
Annales de Démographie Historique, 1, (1), .
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During the last twenty years, social and demographic historians have used a variety of approaches to investigate the health of past generations. Whilst a great deal of effort has been devoted to the analysis of anthropometric indicators, a smaller number of historians have used friendly society records to investigate aspects of sickness and morbidity.
This paper reports our own efforts to investigate the health experience of members of the Hampshire Friendly Society in the south of England. The paper presents new information 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 sickness claims were submitted.
The paper provides relatively little support for the view that age-specific morbidity increased during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, but age-specific morbidity may have increased following the introduction of statutory health insurance in 1911. We are not yet in a position to say whether this reflected a change in the cause-specific nature of morbidity, or whether it was a "cultural" artefact, resulting from a change in sickness-related behaviour.
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