Height and health conditions of the male population of Umbria region (Italy) during the last century

Odoardo Bussini, Università di Perugia
Donatella Lanari, Università di Perugia

This paper analyzes the evolution of demographic and socio-sanitary characteristics, as well as height, of the population of Umbria region (Italy) during a century by considering the 1881, 1911, 1951 and 1980 cohorts of military conscripts. Military recruitment records are used as the main data source, in order to investigate: (i) the variability of the anthropometric characteristics correlated with the improvements of the standard of living; (ii) health changes, by evaluating the causes of discharge for unfitness from the army; (iii) regional migration models, by investigating the spatial and time distribution of surnames. The results show that height is a good proxy of health conditions and suggest a significant relationship between height and various socio-economic indicators. Moreover health and socio-economic changes support the improvement process of living conditions in the first decades of 1900. This shows a transition from high percentages of conscripts declared unfit for the service because of general weakness, to a situation in which chronic diseases, connected to behavioural and environmental modifications, were the main causes of discharge for unfitness. In particular, we highlight an increase of psychic diseases, more significant in the 1980 cohort. Finally, the surname variability increased between 1951 and 1980 cohorts, as the Umbria region passed from a demographic behaviour based on emigration to a new one based on immigration.

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Presented in Poster Session 2