Poor rural societies in Victorian Britain had best diet and health as they enjoyed a traditional lifestyle where high-quality foods were obtained locally.
A new study, published in JRSM Open, monitored the effect of regional diets in poor Victorian Britain during mid-19th century and compared it with available health and mortality data over the same period.
The diets of the poor included locally produced cheap foodstuffs such as potatoes, whole grains, fish, vegetables, and milk. These better-fed regions of Britain showed the lowest mortality rates and updated studies also found a decreased risk of death following improvement towards a higher Mediterranean dietary standard.
Meantime, the rich Victorians had access to a larger variety of foods as well as unhealthy foods. Sugar consumption was increased during Victorian times that caused tooth decay and many associated problems, while poorer people didn’t have this problem.
The researchers said that in the west of Ireland, Connaught’s poor rural districts around 20% of people reached the age of 65 or more, and some reached the age of 95 or even 100.
The study’s author, Dr Peter Greaves, of the Leicester Cancer Research Centre, said, “Conversely, in much of rapidly urbanising Britain in the mid-19th century, improvements in living conditions, better transport links and access to a greater variety of imported foods eventually led to improved life expectancy for many of the urban poor.”
In 2002 the study by Paul Clayton and Judith Rowbotham was published in the same journal in which they analyzed Victorian diets in detail.