Nevin Manimala Statistics

London parochial burial records from 1563 to 1665 indicate higher plague death rates for males than females: Some possible demographic and social explanations

PLoS One. 2022 Aug 5;17(8):e0272278. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272278. eCollection 2022.


The burial rates of males and females in early modern central London were compared to investigate a possible bias towards male mortality in the plague years of 1563, 1593, 1603, 1625 and 1665. The burial records of sixteen parishes were examined and compared with the five-year periods immediately preceding each plague year when recorded burials were substantially less. A markedly higher burial rate for males was detected in each plague year but this can be partly attributed to a general preponderance of males in the central London population since there was a similar but lesser bias in non-plague years. In the plague years the difference between the frequency of male and female adult burials appears to have been enhanced by the preferential migration of women of childbearing age out of the city since fewer births were recorded in months when plague was rife. Furthermore, when a sample of households was investigated, husbands were significantly more likely to have been buried than their wives. These findings were largely applicable to the plague years of 1603, 1625 and 1665 but were far less apparent in 1563 and 1593. In general, there were more burials of boys than girls in non-plague years which is the expected consequence of their greater vulnerability to childhood diseases. This difference diminished in plague years so that the burials of girls and boys approached parity at a time when burials of children of both sexes were significantly increased. Possibly, plague did not discriminate between the sexes and this characteristic tended to mask the usual vulnerability of boys.

PMID:35930534 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0272278

By Nevin Manimala

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