Monday, March 25, 2013

"How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died"

Paper

Analysis of the mid-Victorian period in the U.K. reveals that life expectancy at age 5 was as good or better than exists today, and the incidence of degenerative disease was 10% of ours. Their levels of physical activity and hence calorific intakes were approximately twice ours. They had relatively little access to alcohol and tobacco; and due to their correspondingly high intake of fruits, whole grains, oily fish and vegetables, they consumed levels of micro- and phytonutrients at approximately ten times the levels considered normal today.

Within two generations, however, male health nationally had deteriorated to such an extent that in 1900, five out of 10 young men volunteering for the second Boer War had to be rejected because they were so undernourished. They were not starved, but had been consuming the wrong foods

The fall in nutritional standards between 1880 and 1900 was so marked that the generations were visibly and progressively shrinking. In 1883 the infantry were forced to lower the minimum height for recruits from 5ft 6 inches to 5ft 3 inches. This was because most new recruits were now coming from an urban background instead of the traditional rural background (the 1881 census showed that over three-quarters of the population now lived in towns and cities).

2 comments:

Merijn Knibbe said...

This is an ex-tre-me-ly flawed article based upon very bad data. The 1850's period was actually very bad (potato blight, misharvests of rye). Much better information based upon better sources and more thorough quatification can be found here for the USA and the UK: www.nber.org/papers/w16938.pdf

and here: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15875.pdf

And on the Netherlands: www.tseg.nl/2007/4-knibbe.pdf

Merijn Knibbe

CP said...

Thanks for the correction.

What's your take overall, though?