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Helene Castenbrandt

Researcher

Helene Castenbrandt
Researcher
helene.castenbrandt@history.gu.se
+46 31 786 2883

Postal Address: Box 200, 40530 Göteborg
Visiting Address: Eklandagatan 86 , 41261 Göteborg


Department of Historical Studies (More Information)
Box 200
405 30 Göteborg
www.historiskastudier.gu.se
historia@gu.se
Fax: +46 31 786 4456

Visiting Address: Eklandagatan 86 , 412 61 Göteborg

About Helene Castenbrandt

I finished my PhD in October 2012 with a thesis intitled Dysentery in Sweden 1750-1900: the demographic and medical history of a disease. During my undergraduate studies, I studied both history and mathematics. In addition, I also have a master’s degree in history of medicine from University of Glasgow, Scotland.

My current research is funded through the Swedish Research Council’s grant International Postdoc and within this grant, I will be placed at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, from September 2014.

Reduced mortality – increased morbidity? Morbidity in relation to the emerging system of sickness funds 1890-1960

In my present research project, I study morbidity in the early 2000th century.

Recent studies have showed that the average life expectancy worldwide has increased by a full ten years since 1970. However, the time people are living with illness has also increased and not only among the aging population. This so-called “health paradox” is also reflected in the fact that women are generally more ill than men but live longer. This paradox has been explained in two ways. One emphasises that risk factors for ill health are made up more and more of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental disorders; the other highlights that our perception of morbidity has changed.

This health pattern varies in different parts of the world and today's health conditions have historical roots. In Europe, the major mortality decline in infectious diseases took place during the 1800s and continued into the 1900s. Did this reduced mortality result in a similar increase in morbidity as that shown in current global trends? Were the patterns of women’s health different from those of men then as well? Or was there perhaps a change in how illness was perceived? This issue becomes extra interesting in the light of the fact that a system of private health insurance societies, so-called friendly societies or sickness funds, emerged during the same period.

This project aims to study on the one hand changes in morbidity and on the other changes concerning what was regarded as an illness in relation to the emerging welfare state in Europe. Chronologically, the focus is on the turn of the century 1900 and the first half of the 20th century. Sweden is at the core of the study, as the Swedish source material offers unique opportunities to study shifts in ill-health and morbidity. From a public health perspective, this period is of great importance as it marks the breaking point between a time when mortality in the western world was dominated by infectious diseases and a time when mortality more and more became dominated by non-communicable diseases. This shift is usually called the epidemiological transition. Previous research has concluded that this change took place at the same time as mortality rates declined sharply; however, it is unclear as to what impact these changes had on actual morbidity. Since morbidity is a relative concept, this study will emphasise the tension between actual and perceived illness. Unlike previous research, this proposed study will highlight both women and men's health. In addition to putting Sweden on the European health map, a gender perspective will help to shed new light on European development. At the same time, present-day health patterns will be given a historical perspective.

Rödsot i Sverige 1750-1900: En sjukdoms demografiska och medicinska historia (Title in English: Dysentery in Sweden 1750-1900: the demographic and medical history of a disease)

The aim of my PhD project was to investigate the almost total disappearance of dysentery as a cause of death in Sweden. Dysentery or rödsot, as the disease was previously referred to in Sweden, is still a major scourge in developing countries. In Sweden and in other Western countries the disease has almost disappeared. This was, however, completely different before the dominance of infectious disease among causes of death gradually declined during the 1800s. My research highlights how the powerful epidemic outbreaks of dysentery occasionally hit Sweden with devastating effects. The disturbing effects of dysentery have previously been mostly ignored, partly because the disease is often regarded as a mild, less lethal endemic disease. My research, on the other hand, shows that dysentery was one of the major epidemic diseases which caused many deaths and great suffering in Sweden in the 1700s and 1800s, far more than, for example, cholera did.

However, there were significant geographic differences in deaths due to dysentery. This was true both at the regional and local level. There were counties that almost never suffered major outbreaks of dysentery, while other counties were recurrently ravaged by major epidemics. At the same time, it was found that the differences could be significant even at the local level in which surrounding parishes could have very diverse experiences of epidemics due to dysentery.

In the search for explanations for these varied experiences of dysentery at the regional and local level, my study emphasises the complex interaction between the various factors that may have contributed to the presence of dysentery, its distribution and final disappearance. There are no easy answers to what actually created the conditions that the statistics show; however, factors such as age, gender, sanitation, population concentration, crisis management, weather and climate conditions and even medical procedures surely would have had an impact. The study clarifies the importance of how these factors changed over time and space. What was decisive for dysentery deaths in one area was not in another and what was crucial at one time, was not in another.

Link to full-text: GUPEA

Latest publications

Reduced mortality – increased morbidity? Morbidity in relation to the emerging system of sickness funds 1890-1960
Helene Castenbrandt
Food, Population and Health - Global Patterns and Challenges, Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Dynamics from Prehistory to Present, Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Chapter in book 2016
Chapter in book

Epidemier, massdöd och stort lidande: Rödsot i Sverige 1750-1900
Helene Castenbrandt
Släktforskarnas årsbok 2015, Solna, Sveriges Släktforskarförbund, Chapter in book 2015
Chapter in book

A Forgotten plague: Dysentery in Sweden, 1750-1900
Helene Castenbrandt
Scandinavian Journal of History, Journal article 2014
Journal article

Rödsot skördade hundratusentals liv
Helene Castenbrandt
Släkthistoria, Magazine article 2014
Magazine article

Rödsot skördade hundratusentals liv
Helene Castenbrandt
Populär historia, Magazine article 2013
Magazine article

Rödsoten under kriget 1808-09
Helene Castenbrandt
Gränsland i krigens skugga: Västergötlands fornminnesförenings tidskrift, Skara, Västergötlands fornminnesförening, Chapter in book 2012
Chapter in book

Showing 1 - 7 of 7

2016

Reduced mortality – increased morbidity? Morbidity in relation to the emerging system of sickness funds 1890-1960
Helene Castenbrandt
Food, Population and Health - Global Patterns and Challenges, Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Dynamics from Prehistory to Present, Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Chapter in book 2016
Chapter in book

2015

Epidemier, massdöd och stort lidande: Rödsot i Sverige 1750-1900
Helene Castenbrandt
Släktforskarnas årsbok 2015, Solna, Sveriges Släktforskarförbund, Chapter in book 2015
Chapter in book

2014

A Forgotten plague: Dysentery in Sweden, 1750-1900
Helene Castenbrandt
Scandinavian Journal of History, Journal article 2014
Journal article

Rödsot skördade hundratusentals liv
Helene Castenbrandt
Släkthistoria, Magazine article 2014
Magazine article

2013

Rödsot skördade hundratusentals liv
Helene Castenbrandt
Populär historia, Magazine article 2013
Magazine article

2012

Rödsoten under kriget 1808-09
Helene Castenbrandt
Gränsland i krigens skugga: Västergötlands fornminnesförenings tidskrift, Skara, Västergötlands fornminnesförening, Chapter in book 2012
Chapter in book

Showing 1 - 7 of 7

Page Manager: Cecilia Köljing|Last update: 2/21/2017
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