Sickness experience in England, 1870-1949

Andrew Hinde, Martin Gorsky, Aravinda Guntupalli, Bernard Harris

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    Using data from the Hampshire Friendly Society, a sickness insurance institution in southern England, we examine morbidity trends in England between 1870 and 1949. Morbidity prevalence increased between 1870 and around 1890, mainly because of a rise in the average duration of sickness episodes, but after 1890 average durations fell markedly even though the incidence of sickness rose. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, sickness prevalence increased gradually but this rise was entirely due to the greatly increased duration of claims made by men aged 65 years and over. After the early 1920s both the incidence and the average duration of sickness claims declined. These trends seem to be measuring ‘objective morbidity’: they vary closely with year-on-year changes in the mortality of men of working age, but do not show any clear relationship with real wages or unemployment. Our conclusions are different from those of earlier research using English sickness insurance data. We believe that one reason for this was a methodological problem with the analysis performed by nineteenth-century actuaries.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStandard of Living
    Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Economic History
    EditorsPatrick Gray, Joshua Hall, Ruth Herndon, Javier Silvestre
    Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
    Number of pages28
    ISBN (Electronic)9783031064777
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2022

    Publication series

    NameStudies in Economic History
    ISSN (Print)2364-1797
    ISSN (Electronic)2364-1800


    • morbidity
    • morbidity trends
    • sickness insurance
    • England
    • friendly societies


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