Anonymous asked in Society & CultureCultures & GroupsSenior Citizens · 1 decade ago

In the early 20th century did most elderly persons die from hypothermia?

On a talk radio show the other day, I heard the host claim that before Social Security was implemented, the most common cause of death among the elderly was hypothermia - presumably because they were too old to work and too impoverished to afford heating. Does anyone have any empirical evidence of this claim?

14 Answers

  • janey
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I doubt that very much. I would think death would have been more common from untreated illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, etc. Back then there were no known treatments for many illnesses and people did not go to the doctor nearly as much as they do now. My Grandmother never went to a doctor until she was 74 years old. She treated herself and her family with home remedies. they heated with wood and coal.

    I have no empirical evidence to the claim you speak of, but I do not believe it.

  • Holly
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I could believe this because in the northern states the electricity goes out during blizzards at times for days. Unless you've been through that for a week, you would never realize that it can get that cold in the house with the wind blowing that hard. Many houses didn't have insulation back then. If they had fuel for heat it's possible they ran out or couldn't get out to get it.

    I would question "the most common cause" thing, but the very elderly do have trouble keeping warm, so maybe. I've never heard that, though.

  • 1 decade ago

    I live in Scotland which is not considered to be a warm place and I never heard of people dying of the cold or hypothermia as it is now called.

    Perhaps they did then, and it was diagnosed as something else.

    I personally, never heard of anybody dying from this in those days.

  • 1 decade ago

    Back in the day before SS old people who were not being looked after by relatives would sometime " forget to eat, turn the heat on , etc".

    There were many causes of their deaths, including lack of medical help.

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  • 1 decade ago

    That sounds like something taken out of context for somebody's political purposes. Actually, that is just silly. Especially among immigrant groups, the elderly were cared-for, as opposed to just being left out in the cold to die? Would any reasonable person believe this??

  • 1 decade ago

    I don't think this would be true--but I have no evidence either way. I would figure it would be due to disease. I would figure back then that family was closer in many ways than now. In many families extended family was present and the elderly would be cared for by children and grandchildren. Interesting

  • Lyn K
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    no.pneumonia,heart failure and infectious disease were the top gr8-grandparents house is the house we still live in.8 central below zero degrees farenheit, 80 uyear old uncle still lives gr8-grandparents and grandparents all lived there untill the time of their deaths.(all from heart disease/stroke).when we retire my husband and i will live their.none of us want central heat-we're used to "roughing it " and prefer it!how do we stay warm-WOOD STOVES,of course.there are several in the house,always have gr8-aunt cut wood for that stove untill her mid-90's!the elderly had wood stoves and they work quite well.none of my family ever died of hypothermia there,in over 100 years.this is in upstate new york-snow country for sure.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I have never heard this before.

    This may be a bit graphic, but out here in wild Canadian prairies, it was common to find a deceased person in the out-house (toilet).

    Diets were inadequate, resulting in constipation.

    Consequently, a lot of effort was required to eliminate the bowels; resulting in heart failure.

  • 1 decade ago

    I'm not positive but I do know when I was going up in Brooklyn N.Y. when the Coal truck didn't make a delivery in time & a blizzard hit we froze our butts off there were times when we slept in our clothes

  • 1 decade ago

    I would have to call the talk show host and request that he reveals his source. My grandfather was a doctor during that time and in our area most older retired farmers died from liver diesase .They got bored and drank themselves to death on moonshine.

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