Discussion paper

DP5 Health: Historical Issues

Assessments of the changing pattern of health in the present century are made on the basis of very limited evidence. Problems in evaluating such evidence as age specific mortality rates are considered. Fuller exploitation of morbidity records is advocated. But this data is notoriously difficult to interpret. The examples of malnutrition, tuberculosis and cancer are discussed to illustrate the degree to which a variety of factors lead to under-reporting. It is concluded that morbidity data is strongly influenced by revailing assumptions about health care; these in turn reflect economic pressures. Critical assessment of morbidity data casts doubt on the appropriateness and efficiency of health and welfare services, especially during the interwar period. These findings add to our difficulties in reaching firm conclusions about the impact on health of the Depression.


Webster, C (1984), ‘DP5 Health: Historical Issues‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 5. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp5