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A comparison of Mortality Rates

Public Health: Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Sanitary Report (1842)

The difference in the proportions of ages between a depressed and unhealthy and a comparatively long-lived and strong population, is shown in the following comparative view of the ages of the miners and of the 1033 non-mining labourers who were living and working:-

30 years of age and under 40
40 years and under 45
45 years and under 50
50 years and under 55
55 years and under 60
60 years and under 70
70 years and under 80
80 years and upwards
Miners 1651
Labourers 1033
Not given
Not given

Per Cent


So that whilst in every 100 men of the younger population of work-people there would not be 2 men of the experience beyond sixty years of age, not 8 above fifty, or not a fourth passed forty; in the older population there would be 14 beyond sixty, 27 beyond fifty, or a clear majority of mature age, and, it may be presumed, of the comparatively staid habits given by age. Dr Scott Allison found that the average age of the living male heads of families of the collier population at Tranent whose condition he has contrasted with that of the agricultural population, and whose ages he could ascertain, was 34 years; whilst the average age of the living male heads of the agricultural families was 51 years and 10 months. He considers that the like proportions would be found to be more extensively prevalent, and would serve as fair indications of the relative condition of the different populations.

Whenever the adult population of a physically depressed district, such as Manchester, is brought out on any public occasion, the preponderance of youth in the crowd and the small proportion of aged, or even of the middle aged, amongst them is apt to strike those who have seen assemblages of the working population of other districts more favourably situated.

In the course of some enquiries under the Constabulary Force Commission as to the proportions of a paid force that would apparently be requisite for the protection of the peace in the manufacturing districts, reference was made to the meetings held by torchlight in the neighbourhood of Manchester. It was reported to us, on close observation by peace-officers, that the bulk of the assemblages consisted of mere boys, and that there were scarcely any men of mature age to be seen amongst them. ... But on ascertaining the numbers qualified for service as special constables, the gloomy fact became apparent, that the proportion of men of strength and of mature age for such service were but as a small group against a large crowd, and that for any social influence they were equally weak. The disappearance by premature deaths of the heads of families and the older workmen at such ages as those recorded in the returns of dependent widowhood and orphanage, must to some extent practically involve the necessity of supplying the lapse of staid influence amidst a young population by one description or other of precautionary force.

Samuel Greg

Mr Samuel Greg, at Bollington, has formed baths for the use of his workpeople, which he thus describes:

'The bathing-room is a small building, close behind the mill, about 25 feet by 15. The baths, to the number of seven, are ranged along the walls, and a screen about six feet high, with benches on each side of it, is fixed down the middle of the room. The cold water is supplied from a cistern above the engine-house, and the hot water from a large tub which receives the waste steam from the dressing-room, and is kept constantly at boiling temperature. A pipe from each of these cisterns opens into every bath, so that they are ready for instant use. The men and women bathe on alternate days; and a bath-keeper for each attends for an hour and a half in the evening. This person has the entire care of the room, and is answerable for everything that goes on in it. When any one wishes to bathe he comes to the counting-house for a ticket, for which he pays a penny, and without which he cannot be admitted to the bathing-room. Some families, however, subscribe a shilling a-month, which entitles them to five baths weekly; and these hold a general subscriber's ticket, which always give him admittance to the room. I think the number of baths taken weekly varies from about 25 to 70 or 80.'

Conclusions and Remedies

I beg leave to recapitulate the chief conclusions which that evidence appears to me to establish.

First, as to the extent and operation of the evils which are the subject of the inquiry:-

That the various forms of epidemic, endemic, and other disease caused, or aggravated, or propagated chiefly amongst the labouring classes by atmospheric impurities produced by decomposing animal and vegetable substances, by damp and filth, and close and overcrowded dwellings prevail amongst the population in every part of the kingdom whether dwelling in separate houses, in rural villages, in small towns, in the larger towns - as they have been found to prevail in the lowest districts of the metropolis. ...

That high prosperity in respect to employment and wages, and various and abundant food, have afforded to the labouring classes no exemptions from attacks of epidemic disease, which have been as frequent and as fatal in periods of commercial and manufacturing prosperity as in any others.

That the formation of all habits of cleanliness is obstructed by defective supplies of water.

That the annual loss of life from filth and bad ventilation are greater than the loss from death or wounds in any wars in which the country has been engaged in modern times. ...

That the public loss from the premature deaths of the heads of families is greater than can be represented by any enumeration of the pecuniary burdens consequent upon their sickness and death. ...

That the ravages of epidemics and other diseases do not diminish but tend to increase the pressure of population.

That in the districts where the mortality is the greatest the births are not only sufficient to replace the numbers removed by death, but to add to the population.

That the younger population, bred up under noxious physical agencies, is inferior in physical organisation and general health to a population preserved from the presence of such agencies.

That the population so exposed is less susceptible of moral influences, and the effects of education are more transient than with a healthy population.

That these adverse circumstances tend to produce an adult population short lived, improvident, reckless, and intemperate, and with habitual avidity for sensual gratifications.

That these habits lead to the abandonment of all the conveniences and decencies of life, and especially lead to the overcrowding of their homes, which is destructive to the morality as well as the health of large classes of both sexes. ...

Secondly. As to the means by which the present sanitary condition of the labouring classes may be improved: -

The primary and most important measures, and at the same time the most practicable, and within the recognised province of public administration, are drainage, the removal of all refuse of habitations, streets, and roads; and the improvement of the supplies of water.

That the chief obstacles to the immediate removal of decomposing refuse of towns and habitations have been the expense and annoyance of the hand labour and cartage requisite for the purpose.

That this expense may be reduced to one-twentieth or to one-thirtieth, or rendered inconsiderable, by the use of water and self-acting means of removal by improved and cheaper sewers and drains.

That refuse when thus held in suspension in water may be most cheaply and innoxiously conveyed to any distance out of towns, and also in the best form for productive use, and that the loss and injury by the pollution of natural streams may be avoided.

That for all these purposes, as well as for domestic use, better supplies of water are absolutely necessary. ...

That the expense of public drainage, of supplies of water laid on in houses, and of means of improved cleansing would be a pecuniary gain, by diminishing the existing charges attendant on sickness and premature mortality.

That for the protection of the labouring classes and of the ratepayers against inefficiency and waste in all new structural arrangements for the protection of the public health, and to ensure public confidence that the expenditure will be beneficial, securities should be taken that all new local public works are devised and conducted by responsible officers qualified by the possession of the science and skill of civil engineers ...

That for the prevention of the disease occasioned by defective ventilation, and other causes of impurity in places of work and other places where large numbers are assembled, and for the general promotion of the means necessary to prevent disease, that it would be good economy to appoint a district medical officer independent of private practice, and with the securities of special qualifications and responsibilities to initiate sanitary measures and reclaim the execution of the law.

That the attainment of these and the other collateral advantages of reducing existing charges and expenditure are within the power of the legislature, and are dependent mainly on the securities taken for the application of practical science, skill, and economy in the direction of public works.

And that the removal of noxious physical circumstances, and the promotion of civic, household, and personal cleanliness, are necessary to the improvement of the moral condition of the population; for that sound morality and refinement in manners and health are not long found co-existent with filthy habits amongst any class of the community.

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