Factors that affected the health and the well being of people during the 19th and 20th Century’s

Poor people lived in Small houses in cramped streets. These homes would share toilet facilities, have open sewers and would be susceptible to damp. Overcrowding was also a major issue. The population of Britain virtually doubled between 1801 and 1851 to about 18,000,000 largely as a result of an increased birth-rate and a lowered mortality rate. This rapid growth meant that there were far fewer dwellings than the numbered needed. A report from the London statistical society states that in 1847 a street in St Giles where, in 1841, 27 houses with an average of 5 rooms had 655 occupants, by 1847 the same houses contained 1,095 people.
Such dwellings lacked light and space and had no fresh water or any other means of refuse disposal. The houses were likely to be adjacent to open sewers and piles or rotting animals and vegetable waste. (Referenced from The health of adult Britain, 1841-1994)
All these factors contributed to the poor health and death rate of the people living in the 1800’s. As a result many people died due to the diseases which came about during this time, the over crowding issue became a breeding ground for any disease and it spread like wildfire within a house or even a street and would quickly over come the people.

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These conditions were very unsuitable and resulted in a high death rate, combined with the poor sanitation and poor waste disposal living in these times was extremely horrific.
I cannot see many, if any positive factors about these living conditions; it was horrid and very hard to live like this. Many people died due to the lack of hygiene and sanitation. Perhaps one positive was that no one was ever lonely but saying that, you never got time to yourself either.
Read also Six Dimensions of Health Worksheet
The main issues affecting this area were disease.
Such diseases were
* Smallpox
* Cholera
* Influenza
* Typhus
* Typhoid
* Tuberculosis
Disease affected everyone, regardless of class or background. As there were no immunisations available in this time, many millions of people died, worldwide.
Smallpox was one of the the worst, killing between 300-500 million people during the 20th Century.
Cholera was also extremely common and was caused by drinking unclean water and eating undercooked fish. Due to such poor sanitation this disease spread rapidly, drinking contaminated water, which people had no choice about and also it was carried in faeces, which in the 18th Century was literally just thrown onto the streets and joined the drinking water that people used. Typhoid was another illness spread in the same way.
As the NHS didn’t come in until 1950 so many people suffered from these diseases and it killed so many. The living conditions that people lived in during this time period, contributed almost entirely to the wild spread of disease. The poor sanitation as well as the over crowdedness of the homes was just what was needed for the disease to spread. It was a horrible time to live in. Luckily though it did start to improve between 1990-1950, this was due to the new laws that were introduced.
Pre 1800’s there really wasn’t any health provisions in place at all, yes there was hospital and such like but nurses weren’t trained and the conditions of these hospitals very unhealthy.
When health provisions did come, it was a very positive thing, it introduced the need for nurse and doctor training and also it is when anaesthetics and vaccines were introduced.
Nitrous oxide was often used as an anaesthetic but the effects often wore of before the surgery was complete. In 1847 Chloroform was eventually used instead which keep patients asleep longer. Doctors also used unclean, un-sterile equipment and many people died from blood poisoning.
Vaccines were introduced and the first one was the Small pox vaccine, discovered by Edward Jenner in 1789, it was to be nearly another 100 years before another vaccine was found.
– 1798 smallpox vaccination introduced
– 1880 Cholera vaccination introduced
– 1881 Anthrax vaccination introduced
– 1885 Rabies vaccination introduced
– 1896 Typhoid vaccination introduced
– 1906 Tuberculosis vaccination introduced
– 1913 Diphtheria vaccination introduced
– 1927 Tetanus vaccination introduced
– 1952 Whooping cough vaccination introduced
– 1954 Polio vaccination introduced
– 1964 Measles vaccination introduced
During this period Stethoscopes were also invented. Rene Theophile Hyacithe Laennec, a pupil from Paris invented the stethoscope ion 1816. To start with the stethoscope was a simple wooden cylinder, about 9 inches long with a single earpiece.
In 1895 a man called Willhelm Rontgen discovered the X-ray. This gave doctors expertise in locating broken bones and treating them and also giving clinical and pathological descriptions of a range of pulmonary ailments like Bronchitis, pneumonia and TB.
The advances in medicine during this time was life saving. It gave people vaccines to try to rid them and the country of horrible disease. Both animals and people could now live longer and healthier lives as a result of these vaccines and medical advances.
Children were sent out to work from a young age. They were made to work to help support their families. Many earned just pennies by becoming chimney sweeps or working on the streets running errands. The industrial revolution resulted in many children being employed in large factories and were often responsible for operating dangerous machinery. Children’s health suffered due to this as soot from the chimneys gave them chest complaints and many children became seriously injured as a result of operating such dangerous machines. Many other children worked as servants in the homes of the rich, in the 1850’s one in nine of all female children over the age of 10, worked in domestic service. (Referenced from
Women’s roles
In the early 1800’s, a married woman had one task; to stay home all day and keep the home for her husband. If she was a mother, she would be solely responsible for the children’s raising and wellness. They were also responsible for cooking and cleaning.
Other women worked as servants or slaves helping out another wife with her household duties, or sometimes acting as a substitute if there was no wife.
Many women also took on mens jobs, such as blacksmiths, barbers and printers and once women were employed in factories, this was a main role. The factory employer hired women and children as they were cheaper to employ.
Women were working more so spending a lot more time away from the family home.
Social policy consisted of many laws that came into effect during this time. These included:-
1802 – Factory act was passed,
1842 – Coal mine act. No girls, women or boys under the age of 10 were to go underground.
1848 – First public health act. 1975 act updated.
1870 – Education act. 2000 districts to have schools and the school board is born.
1871 – Local government established.
1875 – Artisan dwelling improvements bill. This gave local authorities power to pull down slums and erect good houses.
The poor law was the system for the provision of social security from the 16th century up until the establishment of the Welfare State in the 20th Century.
The original Poor law act of 1601 stated that
* to board out (making a payment to families wiling to except them) those young children who were orphaned or whose parents could not maintain them
* to provide materials to ‘set the poor on work’
* to offer relief to people who were unable to work – mainly those who were lame, old, blind and impotent
* ‘the putting out of children to be apprentices’ (referenced from
The education act was another great act, it meant that children now had to go to school and could not be forced into work. This was a good law but it also made the poorer families poorer as the children were not bringing in a wage each week.
All the above laws were positive. They brought major changes for families and also ensured that people had money and children had education.
The factory act was the most beneficial to children. It was reviewed and changes were made 4 times. The original act said that children could not work more than 12 hours a day and then this was reviewed and in 1844 the hours of work for children was not to exceed 6 1/2 hours a day. Children under the age of nine were also not allowed to work and by 1844 certificates of age had to be given for children.
Children benefited greatly from these acts, education at last for them was greatly beneficial, although this kept them from working and bringing in an income. The public health act was essential to combat illness and when this was passed it meant the end to dirty water in the middle of streets, drains and sewers were now inplace.
Generally the whole of the era was a sad time. Not many positive outcomes could be had but some got through. The introduction of vaccines and general laws benefited these people greatly and indeed stopped the mass spread of disease and infections.
The new laws that came into place saved many children lives by restricting working hours and sending them to school.
All the above named factors had a massive part in the state of the health in the 1800’s. It was a horrible time to live in but was made easier by the many rules and changes that came into place.

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