Anthropometric traits at military medical examination associated with demographic family characteristics

Dany Chambre, Independent Researcher
Anne Herm, Tallinn University
Gianni Pes, Università degli Studi di Sassari
Michel Poulain, Tallinn University and Université Catholique de Louvain

Body parameters are fundamental anthropometric features resulting from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Height and chest circumference observed during military medical examination of conscripts around age 20 are excellent indicators of their individual health and nutritional status, and more generally, they can reflect the net result of the historical socio-economic conditions prevailing during the growing period. In Sardinia, numerous and accurate datasets are available in military archives spanning the past 150 years. The present contribution show that about 21 % of all conscripts of the classes 1853 to 1935 in Villagrande were declared unfit and 3 out of 4 for failure to achieve the minimum required height and/or chest circumference. The mean height of conscripts in Villagrande was remarkably lower and showed large variability compared with that reported for Alghero (156.3 cm vs 158.5) and the same finding was detected also for chest circumference (80.0 cm vs 82.1). The magnitude of these anthropometric traits in Villagrande may be considered as remarkably low and our investigation aims testing if they are linked at individual level with demographic family characteristics. As for the association of body parameters with demographic family characteristics, our analysis reveals little association if any. The birth rank of the child has no significant effect on body parameters, except for conscripts who are only child. Height and chest circumference of conscripts decrease, although not significantly, with increasing age of mother at birth. This study also aimed at testing the Resource Dilution Hypothesis (RDH). Although conscripts who are only child may show a slightly higher height and chest circumference, no significant negative linear or log-linear trend was detectable for the two body parameters in respect to sibship size of families what is predicted by RDH and observed in several historical populations.

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Presented in Session 9: Health and mortality in the past