Tuberculosis Mortality and Living Conditions in Bern, Switzerland, 1856-1950.

Zürcher, Kathrin; Ballif, Marie; Zwahlen, Marcel; Rieder, Hans L; Egger, Matthias; Fenner, Lukas (2016). Tuberculosis Mortality and Living Conditions in Bern, Switzerland, 1856-1950. PLoS ONE, 11(2), e0149195. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0149195

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BACKGROUND Tuberculosis (TB) is a poverty-related disease that is associated with poor living conditions. We studied TB mortality and living conditions in Bern between 1856 and 1950. METHODS We analysed cause-specific mortality based on mortality registers certified by autopsies, and public health reports 1856 to 1950 from the city council of Bern. RESULTS TB mortality was higher in the Black Quarter (550 per 100,000) and in the city centre (327 per 100,000), compared to the outskirts (209 per 100,000 in 1911-1915). TB mortality correlated positively with the number of persons per room (r = 0.69, p = 0.026), the percentage of rooms without sunlight (r = 0.72, p = 0.020), and negatively with the number of windows per apartment (r = -0.79, p = 0.007). TB mortality decreased 10-fold from 330 per 100,000 in 1856 to 33 per 100,000 in 1950, as housing conditions improved, indoor crowding decreased, and open-air schools, sanatoria, systematic tuberculin skin testing of school children and chest radiography screening were introduced. CONCLUSIONS Improved living conditions and public health measures may have contributed to the massive decline of the TB epidemic in the city of Bern even before effective antibiotic treatment became finally available in the 1950s.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Zürcher, Kathrin; Ballif, Marie; Zwahlen, Marcel; Egger, Matthias and Fenner, Lukas


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Public Library of Science




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

01 Mar 2016 16:42

Last Modified:

02 Nov 2017 12:57

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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