Social bodies : family and community level influences on height and weight, southern Sweden 1818-1968

Detta är en avhandling från University of Gothenburg

Sammanfattning: This dissertation consists of an introduction, four research papers and one paper describing the data I collected for the studies and how I conducted the study. I collected information on men from conscript inspection lists and linked this to a sample of men in the Scanian Economic Demographic Database (SEDD) born between 1797 and 1950. The four research papers analyze influences on height and weight in the 19th and 20th centuries using individual-level data with uniquely rich and detailed information on community context and family background. Paper 1 investigates the long-term changes in socioeconomic differences in height. Sons of landholders were, on average, taller than others in the early and mid-19th century but lost this advantage in the late 19th century. Sons of fathers with non-manual occupations were always the tallest group in the population. The magnitude of the socioeconomic differences in height varied over time but became smaller over time. Paper 2 investigates the association between the number of siblings present in the household and the height of the sons. I find that men with a larger number of siblings were, on average, shorter than others in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dilution of parental resources is a likely explanation of this. The results show that, even if the parental resources were important, it is also important to consider the societal and historical context. The average height of men in Sweden shows a closely mirrored development to the level of infant mortality. In Paper 3 I test the association between height and the infant mortality rate in the year of birth, first year of life and the adult death rate during pregnancy using a sibling comparison design. I find that both the influence of the risk of being sick as an infant and the selection effect of mortality on height are likely to be weak. Paper 4 investigates the occupational differences in body mass index among men born between 1934 and 1950. Socioeconomic differences in body mass index and the risk of obesity are found almost universally in present-day high-income countries. Information on these differences prior to the most recent decades is scarce, for Sweden and internationally. I find that the occupational differences in body mass index were similar in the mid-20th century and in present-day Sweden.

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