Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]
The figures in detail for each sex in each statutory age group are given in the
Nutrition subnormal—Percentage of children examined.
|Twelve-year old boys||6.3||6.5||6.7||5.4||5.3||6.0||5.1||5.2||5.0||4.8||†5.0|
|All above age groups||6.7||6.3||6.2||5.3||5.1||5.2||4.8||4.8||4.9||4.7||4.6|
*7 year-old children. †11-year-old children.
The number of children found in category 4, i.e., definitely malnourished, was
again insignificant, viz., 21 out of 138,549 examined.
What is most to be remarked about the above figures is the steadiness maintained
age by age in each of the six groups, and sex by sex, during the five years
1930 to 1934.
Too much attention must not be paid to minute variations of a decimal point
in the totals, as a preponderance of numbers of one particular age group in which
subnutrition is relatively high would affect the total without reflecting any change in
the nutritional state of the children.
The 7-year-old children inspected in 1934 formed a small group, and subnutrition
at this age amongst boys is constantly more apparent than in the other groups; the
total result of 4.6 per cent. is thereby affected and the small diminution in the amount
of subnutrition found is therefore not a real one.
Dr. Alison Glover has pointed out that there seem to be "crises" of nutritional
state at certain ages. It will be noticed that this is shown constantly in the London
figures for the boys of the 8-year-old group, and it is more marked than usual in the
7-year-old boys examined during the past year.
The seventh and eighth years appears to be critical ages for boys from this point
of view. At all the age periods boys show a greater amount of subnutrition than
girls, but this is intensified at the ages seven and eight. This is manifest not only
in the figures but also is apparent when the children are surveyed en masse in the
schools. A special report by Dr. Neustatter, which was the result of attention being
drawn to the poor appearance of the junior boys in a Bermondsey school, bears this
out. It seems that the superior sex is more sedate, serene and sedentary than their
brothers at this age, while the latter engage in a feverish activity which overtaxes
their immature strength and takes toll of their nutritional state. The boys lose their
infantile chubbiness and overdo it.
Taken as a whole the figures for nutrition are reassuring, and give no cause for
anxiety with regard to the condition of the school children of London; on the other
hand it is disquieting to find amongst its entrant infants an increase in the number of
those with rickets, which up to this year had shown a steady decline.
The percentage of children found free from even traces of nits or pediculi in
the hair was 96.5 compared with 96.2 in the previous year. This is the best result
ever obtained. For some years past the condition of the hair of the 12-year-old girls
has been taken as the criterion of cleanliness, and it has been pointed out that there
has been a gradual improvement from 67.2 per cent. free in 1913 to 75 per cent. in
1923, 91.9 per cent. in 1930, and 93.5 per cent. in 1931. This figure was still further
improved in 1932, when the high level of 95.8 per cent. was obtained.