Long-term changes in sickness and health: further evidence from the Hampshire Friendly Society



This article presents new evidence on long-term trends in sickness rates in England and Wales using data from the Hampshire Friendly Society. In previous work, Edwards, Gorsky, Harris, and Hinde argued that this Society contained a uniquely detailed set of records for the study of individual sickness histories. However, their initial findings were based on the records of a relatively small number of men who joined the Society at different points in time between 1871 and 1912. The current article draws on a much larger body of evidence, based on the records of over 5,500 men who joined between 1824 and 1939. It examines trends in the seasonality of sickness episodes, changes in the relationship between sickness and age, and cause-specific sickness rates. The results indicate that there was little change in age-specific morbidity rates over time, but morbidity did increase with age, mainly because older men remained off work for longer, even when they succumbed to the same conditions as men in younger age groups.