High mortality rate blamed on extreme cold

Thu, Feb 4, 2010, 00:00

FEBRUARY 4th, 1879: In the latter half of the 19th century Dublin was notorious for its slums, dirt and diseases. It was widely believed at the time to have the highest mortality rate in these islands, a view thatThe Irish Times of this day in 1879 disputed with the help of a generous interpretation of some statistics and a claim that the city’s reputation was unfairly damaged by old and sick culchies crowding into its hospitals.

IS THE death-rate in Dublin really absolutely higher than the death-rate in every big town in the rest of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom? The figures of this carefully-compiled return [by the Registrar-General] show that the mortality of Dublin has not been in excess of that in all other English and Irish towns.

In fact, the excess beyond the normal rate was very much greater in many purely rural districts, even in Ireland than it was in Dublin during the quarter. This is extremely satisfactory.

Taken in connection with the admirable medical report [by Dublin Corporation medical officers] of which we have already spoken, it shows the utility of having accurate information before hastily arriving at conclusions on large topics.

Moreover, when we remember the explanations contained in the medical report, and make the needful allowance for the disturbing influences there counted, we are forced to the conclusion that Dublin is not such a pest-house after all.

The intense and prolonged cold of the present winter is greater than it has been in any preceding winter for ten years.

This has a powerful influence on the averages of mortality in increasing them. But the increase in Dublin has been but twenty per cent over the average for the decade, and on the whole of Ireland there has been an increase of twelve per cent.

That is, the excessive cold killed off these excessive numbers everywhere all over the country, and only killed eight per cent more in excess in Dublin than in the kingdom at large. Here we are brought back again to the peculiar population which Dublin has If the death-rate is abnormal, the population is more abnormal still.

There is – the Medical Officers of Health have stated – in Dublin an extraordinary predominance of the unstable ages – namely of those from five years of age downwards, and from fifty upwards, all of whom are particularly subject to lethal influences. Robust adults are drawn away by emigration.

The young and the aged are left behind, and the latter are constantly gaining accessions to their numbers from the influx of those retiring from active pursuits, who come to settle here for the remainder of their days. There is, moreover, a constant influx of the sick and the enfeebled to the workhouses and hospitals of the city.

In English towns, we are informed, the sick and the poor are all relieved in the locality to which they belong.

In Ireland they gravitate unduly towards Dublin. The only test of admission to a workhouse here is destitution; the only test of admission to a hospital is illness. But the whole floating population of poor in the surrounding counties finds its way to Dublin, and becomes chargeable there. The sick, in all the worst kinds of diseases, injuries, and surgical maladies, from every part of Ireland, seek and obtain admission in large numbers to Dublin hospitals. Among all these classes the vital power is extremely low, and the mortality extremely high.

Therefore, the population is increased by people who vastly increase the mortality without proportionately increasing the inhabitants as in other places.

So, the balance of deaths is against us. – http://url.ie/4roz