NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Industrialization and Health in Historical Perspective

Richard H. Steckel

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 118
Issued in August 1999
NBER Program(s):   DAE

This essay discusses recent progress that has been made in understanding the connection between health and industrialization in 8 developed countries. Because earlier efforts have been stymied by lack of reliable measures of mortality, the most recent work utilizes average height obtained from military records. Average heights measure a population's history of net nutrition during the growing years. Based on this measure, health improved uniformly during industrialization in Sweden, but it actually declined for several decades in two countries and generally improved with interruptions in others. Health was inversely correlated with the degree of urbanization across countries and rising urbanization led to health deterioration, especially in England, Australia, and Japan. Public health policy, diets, and business cycles were also important for health during industrialization.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0118

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