Increase of Insanity (from the Grantham Journal 17th March 1906)

At the recent meeting of the British Medical Association, Dr. Hack Tuke, after introducing for discussion the alleged increase of insanity, gave his conclusions as follows:- There has undoubtedly been since 1880 a large increase in the number of patients in asylums and workhouses, but more in the former than the latter. There has been not so great, but still a considerable, rise in the "admissions" of patients in asylums during the same period. After deducting transfers and readmissions, the advance in the number of detentions holds good, after allowing for the increase in population, but does not prove the increased liability of the community to insanity, seeing that there is a vast accumulation due to a lower death-rate, the chronicity of the disease, and its lamentable tendency to relapse. Nor does the advance in admissions prove increased liability to insanity, as the value and comfort of asylums are increasingly appreciated and there has been a very large number of patients drafted from workhouses to asylums and an increasing encroachment on the mass of unregistered lunacy which the census shows to exist. The increase in the numbers of the insane has taken place among the poorer rather than the higher classes of society, though if an increase in insanity were due to the growing stress and complexity of civilized life, the statistics might be expected to show a rise chiefly in regard to educated patients. While, however, Dr.Hack Tuke could not accept lunacy figures as conclusive proof that insanity is on the increase, he lamented the undoubted fact that it had not decreased in spite of all the efforts of physicians and social reformers to improve the conditions of the race.