The contribution of improved health to standards of living in twentieth century England and Wales
The thesis will highlight both qualitatively and quantitatively that during the twentieth century the English population experienced unprecedented improvements in mortality and particularly morbidity, which has provided a substantial boost to standards of living and economic development. Despite the extensiveness of these health improvements, there have been a very limited number of attempts to evaluate and quantify these valuable improvements. None of the existing studies that quantitatively assess improved health actually measure health per se, as they all utilise mortality as a proxy. Furthermore, there have been no historical studies that aim to map the evolution of improving health from the perspective of quality of life for illness sufferers. The thesis will fill all of these voids through developing a quantitative health (mortality and morbidity) measuring tool that is capable of providing (monetary) estimates about the contribution of improved health to standards of living and economic developments in twentieth century England. This will be applied to key case study illnesses (blindness, breast cancer, stomach cancer and tuberculosis) and then extrapolated forward to include all illnesses which will be combined with mortality in order to provide an aggregate health index for twentieth century England. The results of this exercise provide a significant contribution to the twentieth century health and economic history of England. The thesis findings that, at a most conservative estimate, the value of twentieth century health improvements is in excess of 33 billion (1990 international $) substantially adds to a new view of the economics of health and provides very valuable historical detail. This new view is that improvements in health have been a major contributor to economic welfare in twentieth century England. Put another way: the thesis will highlight that during the twentieth century increases in life expectancy and improvements in the quality of life associated with morbidity have provided a considerable contribution to standards of living and the growth of GDP defined on a utility, 'Fisherian' basis, whereby economic growth nearly doubles, from 1.4 percent for GDP only versus 2.6 percent when GDP is adjusted for improved health.