Industrialization and Health in Historical Perspective

28 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2000 Last revised: 30 Apr 2021

See all articles by Richard H. Steckel

Richard H. Steckel

Ohio State University (OSU) - Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 1999


This essay discusses recent progress that has been made in understanding the connection between health and industrialization in 8 developed countries. Because earlier efforts have been stymied by lack of reliable measures of mortality, the most recent work utilizes average height obtained from military records. Average heights measure a population's history of net nutrition during the growing years. Based on this measure, health improved uniformly during industrialization in Sweden, but it actually declined for several decades in two countries and generally improved with interruptions in others. Health was inversely correlated with the degree of urbanization across countries and rising urbanization led to health deterioration, especially in England, Australia, and Japan. Public health policy, diets, and business cycles were also important for health during industrialization.

Suggested Citation

Steckel, Richard H., Industrialization and Health in Historical Perspective (August 1999). NBER Working Paper No. h0118, Available at SSRN:

Richard H. Steckel (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Economics ( email )

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