Diet survey, 1947
Catalogue reference: MAF 256/193


Effect of Social Conditions
One interesting point emerging from the present food surveys, is that as living conditions become worse, and intelligence decreases, the diets tend to become more and more inadequate.
The women who took part in the survey in Birmingham were particularly chosen because they were known to be living under really poor conditions.
All but two of them (numbers 12 and 13, who were also getting the priority rations allowed to expectant mothers) who were outstanding in the group for their intelligence and ability to co-operate, were certainly living in much more dilapidated homes and in more unpleasant surroundings than the majority of the London housewives. The results of this survey show that these Birmingham housewives whose conditions were worse were obtaining a worse diet than the women investigated in London.
The same trend is shown within the East London women themselves. Overcrowding, dirty, dilapidated houses and unhappy family relationships appeared to be associated with bad diet, whereas, in contrast, good diets appeared to be eaten by the more intelligent and go-ahead individuals. With only one exception, however, all the women surveyed were worrying about the difficulty of getting food, and the problem of varying the menus for their families. The one exception was a grocer's wife.
The correlation between social circumstances and diet is indicated in Table III.

TABLE III
Calorie Intake
                                              Comments
2847
"House very clean, although it was dark and shabby. Perfectly willing to co-operate once she realised anonymity and kept a complete record."
2557
"Housewife volunteered to keep record. Plenty of money going into the house ... husband a master tailor."
2512
"Small flat, very well furnished and clean. Obviously fairly well off, and are longing to buy a home of their own."
2114
"Excellent housewife and mother ... Live in a beautifully furnished, prefabricated house."
2058
"Very intelligent, reads as much as she can about feeding, cooking, etc ... record excellently kept."
1515
"Dirty, small, foul-smelling house ... frequent quarrels with husband."
1343
"Housewife perpetually harassed, house always in a muddle ... not enthusiastic or particularly intelligent."
1034
"House filthy, and in a dreadful state of repair, Housewife small, and thin, face paralysed. Children not normally intelligent."
1008
"Dreadfully overcrowded, no sink. Housewife depressed and ill."
715
"Very little furniture, and what there was was on bare boards, no rugs or curtains. Housewife feels very ill, but won't spend money on a doctor's fee."

 

Conclusions

The results of the surveys are summarised in Table IV. This table shows the striking difference between the diets eaten by the women studied in London and in Birmingham. Although the nutritional value of the diets eaten by both groups was less than the average requirements which have been proposed, the evidence presented and comparison with surveys carried out by other workers do not clearly indicate whether the food consumption of separate individuals studied was or was not insufficient for the individuals' needs.

TABLE IV
 
LONDON
BIRMINGHAM
 
Average
Maximum
Minimum
Average
Maximum
Minimum
Calories
1868
3247
1008
1325
2008

713

Total Protein
69 g.
98 g.
35 g.
51 g.
73 g.
29 g.
Animal Protein
33 g.
47 g.
16 g.
22 g.
37 g.
11 g.
Fat
68 g.
115 g.
39 g.
39 g.
59 g.
19 g.
Calcium
0.8 g.
1.4 g.
0.3 g.
0.6 g.
1.2 g.
0.3 g.
Iron
13 mgm.
19.2 mgm.
6.3 mgm.
10 mgm.
14 mgm.
6 mgm.
Vitamin A.
3,490 i.u.
12,000 i.u.
870 i.u.
1,170 i.u.
1,840 i.u.
340 i.u.
Vitamin B1
1.3 mgm.
1.8 mgm.
0.7 mgm.
0.9 mgm.
1.4 mgm.
0.5 mgm.
Riboflavin
1.3 mgm.
1.9 mgm.
0.5 mgm.
0.9 mgm.
1.7 mgm.
0.5 mgm.
Niacin
11.6 mgm.
16.6 mgm.
5.7 mgm.
8 mgm.
11 mgm.
5 mgm.
Vitamin C
33 mgm.
138 mgm.
11 mgm.
14 mgm.
30 mgm.
8 mgm.

Summary
1.
A group of 33 women in the East End of London and another of 13 in a poor district of Birmingham were studied in the summer of 1947. Individual food consumption was estimated in each case during the period of a week.
2.
The diet eaten by the Birmingham women was less satisfactory than that consumed by the group of women in London.
3.
The adequacy of diets eaten by individual women appeared to be affected by adverse social conditions.

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