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Author Topic: Were people more frequently ill in the past than we are today?  (Read 1980 times)


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Gabriela asked the Naked Scientists:
During these late winter months, it seems that everyone around is constantly sick. At least once a month or once every two months I tend to catch some kind of a bug, from the mild kind to the one that puts me out of commission for a couple of days.

With modern antibiotics, everyone usually survives without any long term consequences, but this brings me to a question: Were people ill this often a couple of hundred years ago, resulting in a fairly high mortality, or is this frequent occurrence of colds and other bugs the result of living in a high density population, such as modern cities?

What do you think?


Offline JnA

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Being ill often is an indication that modern medicine is doing a great job. In the past (pre antibiotics) being ill once was probably fatal.

Offline rosy

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I don't suppose the incidence of colds has changed enormously, although complications such as chest infections if they arise used to be more likely to prove fatal... modern medicine is still relatively powerless against the humble rhinovirus.

Apendicitis, on the other hand, now much less frequently prevents an individual from being ill ever again.

Offline DoctorBeaver

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There is some evidence that the antiseptic lives we live today reduces our resistance to many illnesses. Asthma is a case in point. It is thought that exposure to everyday germs assists the immune system, but we are constantly barraged by advertising for antiseptics and disinfectants that we are told will kill 99% of household germs and people think that must be a good thing.

A study I read a while back showed that children raised in the country, especially on farms, were more resistant to illness than those in towns and cities. The conclusion was that it is due to they're having more contact with soil and the bacteria therein.

Offline Don_1

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I'm sure this drive to ultra-cleanliness will do us harm in the end. Eat some dirt, give the immune system something to do before it forgets what it's there for and deserts us.

Right, I don't seem to be wanted here, so I'm off Byeeeee, look after yourself

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