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Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute

Historical demography

The Hampshire Friendly Society was a mutual-aid organisation operating in the south of England during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which offered a sickness insurance scheme for its members.

An ESRC two-year funded project entitled "The health and morbidity of friendly society members in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries" has assembled a sample of around 5,500 individual-level sickness histories relating to the members of this Society between the mid-nineteenth century and the 1970s. The investigators of this project are Bernard Harris ( Social Sciences), Andrew Hinde (S3RI) and Martin Gorsky (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). The research fellow on the project is Aravinda Guntupalli (Social Sciences).

The data we have assembled detail the years and quarters in which each eligible member made a claim for sickness benefit. From 1892 onwards, they also give details of the condition or disease which gave rise to each claim. The data are currently being used to answer the following research questions:

  • What was the relationship between changes in the age structure of the Hampshire Friendly Society (HFS) and the prevalence of sickness among its members between about 1870 and 1914?
  • Did other friendly societies find that sickness rates rose in a similar manner to the HFS and, if so, how did they account for these trends?
  • Did the age-of-onset of increased morbidity among members of the HFS change over time?
  • Did sickness duration increase with age because it took longer for older people to recover from the same conditions which affected them in earlier life, or because of changes in the conditions they experienced?
  • Was the association between sickness in earlier life and mortality due to the accumulation of insults, or was it an effect of differential ‘frailty’?
  • To what extent was the increase in morbidity attributable to the ‘cultural inflation of morbidity’?

Papers from the project have been presented at:

  • European Social Science History Conference, Lisbon, February 2008
  • British Society for Population Studies Annual Conference, Manchester, September 2008
  • Social Science History Association Annual Conference, Miami, October 2008
  • Economic History Society Annual Conference, Warwick, April 2009
  • American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Meeting, Cleveland, April 2009
  • Population Association of America Annual Meeting, Detroit, April-May 2009


Dr Martin Gorsky (London School of Hygine and Tropcal Medicine)

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