Sickness experience in England, 1870-1949

Andrew Hinde* (Corresponding Author), Martin Gorsky, Aravinda Guntupalli, Bernard Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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 publicationEssays on Economics, History, and Religion in Honor of John E. Murray
EditorsPatrick Gray, Joshua Hall, Ruth Wallis Herndon, Javier Silvestre
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-06476-0
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2022

Publication series

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

Bibliographical note

An earlier version of parts of this paper was presented at the Social Science History Association’s 38th Annual Conference held in Chicago in November 2013. The research on which this paper is based was funded by research grant #RES-062-23-0324 from the United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council.


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


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