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October 17, 1990

Sickness, Recovery and Death: A History and Forecast of III Health

Author Affiliations

Alexandria, Va

Alexandria, Va


by James C. Riley, 295 pp, with illus, $27.50, ISBN 0-87745-233-4, Iowa City, Iowa, University of Iowa Press, 1989.

JAMA. 1990;264(15):2015-2016. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450150117046

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This book is at once fascinating and exasperating, a study that is well worth the effort needed to digest it and to give careful consideration to the provocative arguments and conclusions. Doctor Riley is professor of history at Indiana University, and he has been awarded the Ernst Meyer Prize for this work. It is an historical analysis of ill health drawn from records of workmen's sick (insurance) funds, the history of European epidemics and their mortalities, and modern records of health surveys. In its entirety, the study provides a unique picture of ill health from the 1600s to the present contrasted with the more usual analysis of mortality records.

The issue of mortality records and their interpretation opens the book with a more or less classical presentation of the changing survival curves of populations from neolithic to modern times. This permits the introduction of the concept of mortality risks and