A new study debunks the long-held belief that the Spanish flu pandemic, which began in 1918 and killed nearly 50 million people worldwide, disproportionately affected healthy young adults.
The study was led by researchers from McMaster universities (Canada) and Colorado universities in Boulder (United States), and is published this Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Because so many people became ill so quickly, doctors of the time believed that healthy people were just as likely to die from the flu as those who had already been sick or frail. Despite numerous historical accounts, there is no concrete scientific evidence to support this belief.
Researchers from McMaster and Colorado universities in Boulder analyzed the age of death of some victims and studied bone injuries to conclude that people more susceptible to dying from the flu had shown previously signs of environmental, social and nutritional stress.
“Our circumstances – social, cultural and immunological – are intertwined and have always shaped people’s lives and deaths, even in the distant past,” says Amanda Wissler, assistant professor in McMaster’s Department of Anthropology and lead author. of the study.