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The Ghost of Christmas Past: health effects of poverty in London in 1896 and 1991

Dorling, D., Mitchell, R., Shaw, M., Orford, S. and Smith, G.D. (2000) The Ghost of Christmas Past: health effects of poverty in London in 1896 and 1991. BMJ, 321 (7276). pp. 1547-1551. ISSN 0959-8138


Objectives: To compare the extent to which late 20th century patterns of mortality in London are predicted by contemporary patterns of poverty and by late 19th century patterns of poverty. To test the hypothesis that the pattern of mortality from causes known to be related to deprivation in early life can be better predicted by the distribution of poverty in the late 19th century than by that in the late 20th century.

Design: Data from Charles Booth's survey of inner London in 1896 were digitised and matched to contemporary local government wards. Ward level indices of relative poverty were derived from Booth's survey and the 1991 UK census of population. All deaths which took place within the surveyed area between 1991 and 1995 were identified and assigned to contemporary local government wards. Standardised mortality ratios for various causes of death were calculated for each ward for all ages, under age 65, and over age 65. Simple correlation and partial correlation analysis were used to estimate the contribution of the indices of poverty from 1896 and 1991 in predicting ward level mortality ratios in the early 1990s.

Setting: Inner London.

Results: For many causes of death in London, measures of deprivation made around 1896 and 1991 both contributed strongly to predicting the current spatial distribution. Contemporary mortality from diseases which are known to be related to deprivation in early life (stomach cancer, stroke, lung cancer) is predicted more strongly by the distribution of poverty in 1896 than that in 1991. In addition, all cause mortality among people aged over 65 was slightly more strongly related to the geography of poverty in the late 19th century than to its contemporary distribution.

Conclusions: Contemporary patterns of some diseases have their roots in the past. The fundamental relation between spatial patterns of social deprivation and spatial patterns of mortality is so robust that a century of change in inner London has failed to disrupt it.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2000 BMJ Publishing Group.
Institution: The University of Leeds, The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Geography (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2008 14:32
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:07
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1547
Status: Published
Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1547
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4915

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