London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Islington 1861

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Islington, Parish of St Mary]

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the amount of sickness prevalent in Islington during the year by the application of
the law recently laid down by Mr. Edmonds.* The law is, that "the numbers constantly
suffering from acute sickness at any year of age (from 15 years upwards) will
amount to double the number of yearly deaths, and the number of invalids or permanent
sufferers from past sickness will be equal to the number of annual deaths."
Consequently, during the past year in Islington, there were on an average constantly
on the sick list, unable to work at their occupations, unable to gain their living, unproductive,
thrown upon the resources of their former providence, upon the kindness
and means of their friends, or compelled to seek relief from the poor rates, as many
as 4119 adult persons,f of whom one-third, or 1373, were persons permanently
disabled, who will never be able to support themselves again out of earnings of their
mental or bodily labour. What proportion of our adult population this number forms
will appear at some future time. Mr. Edmonds' law doe3 not apply to children, but
it is to be observed that much of the permanent disability of adult age, and the
liability to attacks of sickness which interfere with the working power of the adult, is
a legacy of infantile disease.
Here then is the significance of my mortality table. It means something more
than that our population has been reduced by so many—it has a political and social
meaning, which is capable of a money valuation. Every death of an adult is a money
loss ; every sickness is a reduction of wealth, represents an additional burthen upon a
family, often ill-fitted to bear it, or an imperative demand upon the purse of the
ratepayer. Every one of the persons referred to is, on the estimate of Dr. Farr,
disabled for an average period of 36 days, or loses one-tenth part of his yearly earnings
in consequence of sickness. Adult sickness represents a ten per cent, income
tax—a tax too which does nobody any good.
The number of persons who (including a few prisoners) sought medical relief
in our various charitable institutions, or from the Parish, amounted, with children'
to 28,000. Another large number were recipients of charitable aid in general or
special hospitals in various parts of London, and many were probably without
medical advice altogether. Applying Dr. Farr's estimate to our adult population
of all classes, probably over 40,000 adults (one fourth of our adult population) were
more or less ill at some time during the year.
DISTRICT MORTALITY AND SICKNESS.
6. The district mortality is represented in Table II., and its relation to the population
of each district, or the death rate, is represented on the table printed upon the map.
The former is constructed from the record which I keep of the deaths which occur
annually in every house and street in the Parish, with their cause as returned to the
Registrar. The latter table is replete with interest, not only to myself, as watching
over the public health and seeking to remove local causes of ill health, but also to
you, as showing how large an amount of the whole death and sickness in the Parish
occurs amongst those whose position in life is nearest to pauperism; amongst those,
"On the Statistic! of Health," by T. R. Edmonds, Esq., B.A. Appendix to Report of the
Proceedings of the Fourth Session of the International Statistical Congress, p. 450.
This does not include the persons, probably at least 600, who correspond to the deaths in Hospitals,
etc., beyond the limits of the parish ; nor yet those, probably about 400, who correspond to the
deaths in the workhouse.


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