The period began with one of the worst outbreaks of disease ever.
The influenza epidemic of 1918-19 was estimated to have killed between 27 and 50 million people worldwide. Many of the victims were healthy young adults. More
The average weight and height of children increased and life expectancy rose.
In 1900, life expectancy was 48 years, by 1935 it was 60 years. This was due to less hunger, better hygiene, less drunkenness, better water supplies, sanitation and advances in medical skills. More
There was an increasing interest in taking part in sports and active hobbies.
Sports such as tennis, swimming and soccer increased in popularity. Youth hostels and cheap public transport offered people the chance to explore the countryside. Hobbies such as jazz, ballroom dancing and ice-skating also saw more people taking exercise. More
Medical advances led to improvements in health.
The dreadful wounds suffered in WW1 gave surgeons experience which was valuable in peacetime. The food problems faced during WW1 also led to increased research into diet and nutrition, and medical implements were becoming easier to use and more accurate in their recording. More
Knowledge of the importance of good food improved, helped by newspapers and women's magazines.
Newspapers and women's magazines gave information on the importance of good diet, cleanliness and hygiene. Vitamins became popular and there were health food shops selling dried fruit, herbal teas and cereals. More
Despite this, the diet of many people became less healthy.
This was partly due to the poverty that came with the Great Depression. Britain in the 1930s was suffering from the world-wide economic crisis. Those affected by unemployment often suffered from malnutrition. This saw the setting up of soup kichens and the organisation of hunger marches. More
More use of processed and convenience foods also led to a decline in the healthiness of the diet.
This included foods such as white bread, crisps and, particularly, food with a large amount of sugar. More
Dietary studies showed that one of the biggest deficiencies was in calcium.
By the mid-30s, about half of British children in elementary schools were receiving free or cheap milk each day. More
20 million workers paid into the National Insurance system which covered them but not their families.
The National Insurance system gave workers sickness benefits and free access to a GP. Their families, however, had to depend on private insurance schemes. More
There was a large problem with tooth decay.
Poor people often had false teeth, or no teeth at all, in later years. This was not helped by the sugary diet. More
The period saw the start of two crazes that still cause health concerns today – excessive slimness and sunbathing.
Fashionable and richer women became obsessed with slimness and it became popular to have a suntan. Doctors warned of the dangers of excessive slimming but nobody knew of the potential dangers from sunbathing. More
The health and safety of employees began to be taken more seriously.
Forward thinking employers began to provide works canteens offering cost-effective meals. In some factories, on-site surgeries provided medical care for employees who were injured or taken ill at work. More
Smoking became popular and fashionable for women.
It was seen as glamorous and rebellious. Young women followed the example of movie stars and the fashionable art deco posters that advertised smoking as a positive lifestyle choice. Women now smoked openly in public as well as private. More
Polio epidemics swept the world in the 1930s.
There was no cure and, although some people recovered, others were left severely disabled. The epidemics led to the first artificial life support machine, the iron lung, which was used to keep alive patients who had lost the ability to breathe for themselves. Some unfortunate people spent the rest of their lives in the machine, with only their head free to move. More
Penicillin was discovered but its mass production was not possible until after WW2.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming began the modern era of antibiotic discovery when he noticed that a blue green mould on a petri dish, which had accidently been left open, was preventng the growth of bacteria on the dish. He grew a pure culture and discovered that it was a penicillin mould. More