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Bright side to the Black Death? World changed lifestyle after plague, researchers say

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/9/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Devastation led to better standards of living afterwards

Where there a bright side to the Black Death? That's what some researchers have concluded. While the Black Death devastated Europe in the 14th Century and untold millions of people died, the devastation led the survivors to adapt better living conditions.

Survival and general health improved dramatically by the 16th Century, with people living much longer than before the epidemic broke out.

Survival and general health improved dramatically by the 16th Century, with people living much longer than before the epidemic broke out.

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/9/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Black Death, health conditions, survivors, plague


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An analysis of skeletons in London cemeteries has shown those who survived the Black Death lived longer and had better health than ever before.

It took an enormously heavy toll on the world, but the improvements in health only occurred because of the death of huge numbers of people.

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Dr. Sharon DeWitte of South Carolina University says that this is evidence of how infectious disease has the power to shape patterns of health in populations, said.

"Even in the face of major threats to health, such as repeated plague outbreaks, several generations of people who lived after the Black Death were healthier in general than people who lived before the epidemic," DeWitte says.

Killing 30-to-50 percent of the European population in the 14th Century, victims of the Black Death broke out in lumps and black spots and died within days. The elderly and the sick were most at risk of catching the bacterial infection, which was probably spread through sneezes and coughs, according to the latest theory.

Villages then faced starvation, with no workers left to plough the fields or bring in the harvest.

Little is known about the general health and death rates of the population, before and after the disease struck. DeWitte investigated how the deaths of frail people during the Black Death affected the population in London after the epidemic.

She analyzed nearly 600 skeletons buried in London cemeteries to estimate age ranges, birth rates and causes of death for medieval Londoners living before and after the epidemic.

Survival and general health improved dramatically by the 16th Century, with people living much longer than before the epidemic broke out.

"It really does emphasize how dramatically the Black Death shaped the population," she says. "The period I'm looking at after the Black Death, from about 200 hundred years after the epidemic. What I'm seeing in that time period is very clear positive changes in demography and health."

DeWitte admits that the aftermath of the epidemic would have been "horrifying and devastating" for those who survived. "Those improvements in health only occurred because of the death of huge numbers of people."

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