Scotlands History

Health

The speed of urban growth between 1770 and 1850 brought many social problems - not the least being typhoid and cholera outbreaks due to contaminated water supplies, open sewers and inadequate sanitation.

In 1800 you only had a one in six chance of reaching your first birthday. Diet was poor: mainly bread and oatmeal. Fish, fruit and meat were rare treats, so rickets was common. Children often died from measles, diarrhoea or whooping cough.

After the Reform Act of 1832, improved sewage treatment and water supplies were organised: Glasgow piped fresh water in from Loch Katrine, and Edinburgh built reservoirs in the Pentland Hills. Baths, parks, hospitals and wash-houses were built by local authorities.

By the 1860s Medical Officers of Health were appointed for the cities; and Scotland’s medical schools in the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews became well established. People’s health gradually improved as working hours were reduced and the novelty of ‘leisure time’ was introduced.

  • photograph of close No. 101 High Street, Glasgow
  • old photograph of Loch Katrine

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