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What effect did the first world war have on the health of the British population - Essay Example

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What Effect did the First World War have on the Health of the British Population? Studies on the impact of the First World War on the health of the civilian population generally conclude that the War contributed either directly or indirectly caused a decline in health and mortality.1 Not all researchers agree with these findings however…
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What effect did the first world war have on the health of the British population
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Download file to see previous pages For example, in examining the Great Depression of the 1930s, it is typically determined that government policies together with statistics published by health officials reveal a decline in health and an increase in hunger. Bryder argues that perhaps a more localized study would reveal a more realistic account of the health of a population at any given time.3 In this essay, we examine various studies and reports documenting the health of the British population on the health of the British population during the First World War. Bourke demonstrates that the First World War had a significantly detrimental effect on the bodies of surviving soldiers. This is turn had a detrimental impact on the quality of their lives in the post-war era. Many of these men joined the war as “middle-class volunteers” who were “eager to do their bit”.4 As Bourke points out: The decisive impact of the Great War on men’s bodies can be seen most clearly by looking at the war-maimed. Irrevocably re-moulded by their experiences, these men struggled to create new lives that challenged their status as physically disabled.5 The gravity of dismemberment is captured by statistics provided by Bourke. According to Bourke, the number of mutilated and maimed men during the First World War was at the time unprecedented and a shock to the British morale. More than 41,000 British soldiers experienced amputated limbs during the First World War. Among the amputees, 69% lost a leg, 28% lost an arm and 3% lost both an arm and a leg. In addition, 272,000 sustained damages to the limbs, although amputation was not required. Approximately 65,500, soldiers sustained head or eye injuries. Another 89,000 suffered grave bodily harm.6 The number of maimed and disabled soldiers returning to civilian life would obviously impact the health or at least the well-being of the general population. The economic conditions would have obviously declined as a result of the expense involved in fighting the war. Yet, post-war expenses would have increased over expenses in the pre-war era. As Bourke points out, the number of disabled persons relying on public funds necessarily increased as a result of the war experience. For example, up to 1920, 31, 500 soldiers were still on disability for amputations.7 There was also a psychological impact of war in that the mental health of the soldiers during the First World War was arguably unavoidable and this would also add to the public’s financial burden. During the First World War, surviving soldiers witnessed the mass burial of their fallen and mangled colleagues. As Bourke reports, men were systematically buried wherever they happened to fall since there was no time or resources to retrieve the bodies and take them to a place of dignity for property burial.8 Harrison maintains that although the First World War itself contributed to the spread of disease and as such posed a threat to the health of both the civilian and soldier population, it had positive outcomes for the long-term health of the general population overall. As Harrison reports, historically, during war times, more soldiers died of disease than those who died from war-related injury. However, during the First World War, this trend changed in that more soldiers died of war-related injury than those who died of disease. While it is quite possible that this turn around in the ratio of disease-related ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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