And here is the other author, Dr Paul Clayton, promoting "MonaVie" supplements:
MonaVie turns out to be a multi-level marketing company selling food supplements (the same kind of supplements that this paper goes out of its way to recommend) that defaulted on a $152m loan in 2015 and went into foreclosure:
I attended one of MonaVie's "internal" meetings, invited there by an acquaintance of mine who was over-eager to get me to join in under him. I can tell you, this thing was literally a cult. The meeting consisted of people one-upping each other in describing how happy and rich they will be, coupled with top regional staff promising rewards for best performers - including, I kid you not, an orbital flight as a space tourist. The entire meeting was a happy death spiral - a chain reaction of good feelings.
Seriously, I am so glad to see it down.
 - i.e. by distributors, for distributors, not meant for the product end-users.
 - http://lesswrong.com/lw/lm/affective_death_spirals/
And is there a way to tell if it has been peer reviewed?
Since I am (or was) an historian I'm going to look at Dr. Rowbotham to see if I can make sense of her motivations for writing this paper.* That might help us understand why an historian would even consent to publish an article like this. At first glance, things don't look good. She's working in the school of business at Plymouth, which is weird, but perhaps that figures in to her interests in crime? She co-founded the SOLON institute, which has been the vehicle for publishing some of her work. Her work has been published by several journals and publishers, but generally they're not that great. The SOLON institute is also led by what most academics in English would consider "tier 3" universities, at best.
She just looks like a fringe academic.
But then we dive deeper into her resume. She was a Reader at Nottingham Trent Uni. Now, Nottingham is nothing to write home about, but being a Reader is-- in the US it's the equivalent of being an Associate Professor. Now she's a Visiting Research Fellow, which is usually a stipended position and allows the researcher to work solely on ... research. That means that her project, whatever it is, at the very least was interesting and viable to the University of Plymouth. So that's worth knowing, because even at low level universities research fellowships are desirable.
I think that this line from her bio may be key: "My research focus consequently shifted to 'bad' behaviour, and I began to develop my interdisciplinary credentials as a lawyer and criminologist as well as a historian of crime." After publishing her PhD thesis in 1989 she doesn't appear to have produced much research. Then in 2010 everything picks up. When seeing vitae gaps like this on the resume of a female professor the assumption of most (male) academics is that she was raising children, and that's probably true, but she also made a pivot in her career to law and criminology, which further interrupted her career.
She is likely a very rare creature in British academia: a generalist. That's the sort of thing that's horrible for a career in the UK, but may very well make her an excellent teacher and a great resource if you're into crime and law in Victorian England. I can't say of course. One thing I do know is that it's good (for the historical profession) to have historians reaching across fields and asking these sorts of questions. So, Dr. Clayton notwithstanding, this may very well be a worthwhile endeavor. I think we'd all like some corroboration, though, because the article itself is pretty shaky. I wonder if Dr. Rowbotham's training gave her an understanding of statistics.
* In theory someone could just ask, but then that wouldn't require the kind of qualitative analysis that historians do so well!
Surely an understanding of statistics is a prerequisite for a study of criminology?
If you want to talk about unfair comparisons, you should look to all the people aged past 5 who wouldn't be alive without modern medicine (e.g. most terminal patients, some severe burn patients, some people with congenital defects, etc) and who inevitably lower the average health measures of our current populations. There's some seriously strong self-selection bias at work here: as medicine advances, the difference in health indicators between earlier and later adult populations would always be increasingly favorable to the latter.
It's not like for like. The comparison they use is life expectancy at birth now versus life expectancy at 65 in 1850.
If you use the correct comparison i.e. life expectancy at 5 for both, it's 54.6 in 1841 and 79.4 in 2011. I link to the ONS source is a separate post.
> At 65, men could expect another ten years of life; and women another eight [24,32,33] (the lower figure for women reflects the high danger of death in childbirth...)
It's as if they started writing the article using life expectancy at 5 everywhere, but had to change some places to make the numbers fit.
I have to say, I didn't notice that. If they have any evidence that significant numbers of 19C women in their late sixties were dying from complications due to childbirth, that would be an interesting article.
The more I read it, the more I think it's an April Fool that was published a week or two early by mistake.
This is surprising, to say the least.
This is the catch. The kid with asthma or diabetes didn't make it to age 5 back then, but today he does. Replace asthma or diabetes with other conditions. If your higher infant mortality is weeding out everyone who has any chronic disease which may effect longevity then this is what you get. The downside is that parents back then were burying a lot of babies.
Modern Britons' life expectancies at 65 which actually are "comparable" with Victorian life expectancies at 65 are available in well publicised, frequently-updated and granular time series from ONS. But since they suggest life expectancy is about twice as long for todays' 65 year olds as Victorian ones the authors appear to have deliberately distorted the truth by choosing a less relevant basis for comparison instead.
Needless to say, if they're prepared to commit statistical frauds as blatant as this, the rest of their claims should be regarded as suspicious especially the more outrageous longevity claims. It wasn't a surprise to find that one of the authors runs a nutrition supplement company and has been featured on Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog before
Which is a shame, because there probably are valid, non-obvious points about aspects of Victorian diets and lifestyles that were healthier than ours, buried under wilfully misleading claims about degenerative diseases being a purely modern phenomenon.
Also, if you do the 5yo comparison, life expectancy for a male was 54.6 in 1841 and 79.4 in 2011.
As this information is trivially available and the life expectancy claim is central to their argument, it's hard not to conclude that the article is willfully misleading.
Now I should just do some real research to back up that for them with statistics.
At 70 you only have ok odds of hitting 80-90. However, even at 85 the odds of hitting 90 are only ~50/50.
PS: Yes, there are plenty of people who will see 100+, but that's mostly because the initial pool is so large.
Very interesting. My take on the rest of it shows that they ate more vegetables relative to calorific intake, and less sugar. I'm not convinced on the drinking or tobacco comments - I think these are things that are not as prevalent in my generation as much as the authors may have thought it is.
Our infant mortality has gone down, leading to many more "weaker" individuals making it past five (of course a positive thing for most). These individuals are likely to have a shorter lifetime expectancy (sometimes far too short), dragging down the average.
These individuals are sorted out entirely in the historic data, as they would not have made it till 5 years of age back then, which is the age they use for the comparison.
In other words, it does not produce any evidence that a healthy individual from back then is any healthier than a healthy individual now. It merely shows that our weak individuals live longer than back then, turning an infant death into a maybe decent life.
Lots of interesting questions, no answers to date:
1., Did the introduction of electricity and mass refrigeration amplify/cause the deterioration of public health?
2., Did the massive losses of young, fit, male population in WW1 and WW2 lead to the decline of public health in the partaking nations? It stopped fine genetic material from procreating (you needed to fulfill health standards to serve after all). Losses of that scale were not encountered before.
Correlation, causation, the usual.
/insert a ton of random gears here...
1. Move a lot more (twice as much). What would this entail in today's society? Fitness?
2. Eat twice as much as we do now and focus on fish, fruits and vegetables?
Walk / Cycle to work every day at a fast pace (1 hour total). Play some kind of sport daily at lunchtime / after work (1 hour). You’ve just used an extra 1000 calories or so. Congratulations: you’re almost half way to your goal of doubling your daily calorie output.
Plus you still need to spend time doing all the other stuff to keep your life going outside work.
It can be done, but modern life guides people to a constant sedentary lifestyle. Drive to work, sit at home in the evenings watching TV etc etc.
TBH we only need to do one thing which is to ignore the article. As stated in other comments, the authors' life expectancy premise is horribly flawed to such an extent that it is hard to make the case that it isn't deliberate.
If you use the correct data, the only sensible conclusion you can make is that, for life expectancy at all ages, it's a hell of a lot better living now (in the UK at least) compared to living in the late 19C (in the UK).
Whether or not there were dietary benefits then versus now, I have no idea. Maybe there were but they are heavily swamped by medical and other considerations. What I do know is that this article adds nothing to the body of knowledge that would determine that.
It's not rocket science. But it is hard, since it goes against many of our instincts and marketing and societal pressures.
Well, within reason. But most are busy enough that this works out the same.
But I doubt a new diet fad will be the elixir for longevity.
Being scientific means that when conclusions take you to places you are not comfortable with, you keep going anyways.
To avoid doing so is dangerous, and I see so much of that avoidance today, unfortunately for all of us. Reject that "religion" and free yourself from guilt.
Whether the past was better or worse is irrelevant. I only seek to understand the findings and have them inform our current times. I do find it hard to believe that life in the Victorian Era was longer/more enjoyable than today simply because modern medicine has evolved so much and because we know so much more about what harms people.
If negative includes perfectly valid criticism, then who cares? Dismissive? Which comments?
Rather than generalising over this thread-tree, why not respond to some? It seems a bit early for you to be invoking a stereotype.
This seems very wrong from what I know about Victorian Britain
From the introduction:
Our recent research indicates that the mid-Victorians’ good health was entirely due to their superior diet.
> high intake of fruits, whole grains, oily fish and vegetables
Am wondering about the statement regarding cancer being rare. Is that only because people didn't live long enough?
I went to a Wal-Mart this past weekend, I know full well what is wrong with contemporary health--excess eating!
According to the article, their life expectancy after the age of 5 was comparable to ours.
According to the article, their calorific intake was approximately twice ours because they expended so much more calories working & keeping warm. 3000 calories for a "sedentary" man, over 5000 for a labourer.
Also, you downvoted me, then posted "life expectancy after age 5" which, in my thinking, only validates that article has little to do with "infant mortality" since age 0-5 covers a wide band of people who are not infants, right?