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Comparison Of Body Size In Young Adult Polish Women Before And After WWII

Krystyna Skarbek, Polish spy during WWII helping the British (Credit: mentalfloss.com)

In my research, I focus on stratification in fertility, lifespan, mortality and health status depending on the size of the place of residence, religious denomination and type of economy (e.g. Lutherans in the Poznań province).

In addition, the variability of biological characteristics in historical and contemporary populations from the territory of Poland, and its causative factors and changes over time. This study provides insight into the demographic and biological picture of a still scarcely known Central and Eastern Europe of the 19th and 20th centuries in the context of its political and economic situation.

At the end of the 18th century, the territory of the Polish state was split between the three neighboring powers: Russia, the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria. The Polish territories belonging to Prussia, Russia and Austria showed differences in the rate of economic development, what translated into significant differences in height, body mass and BMI.

A focus was also made on a negative influence of the Second World War on body height, weight, BMI and age of menarche. In the paper “Height as an indicator of economic status in the Polish territories under Russian rule at the turn of the 19th to 20th century” an analysis of determinants of body height as an indicator of socio-economic status was carried out.

In the north-eastern provinces of the Kingdom of Poland (the Russian sector), lagging behind the central region in economic development translated into statistically significant differences in body height of men and women to the disadvantage of the former. Differences in the body weight, height and BMI between gentlefolk and peasants from the Kingdom of Poland (higher in the former and lower in the latter) also resulted from differences in their economic status, and hence their lifestyles, including diet  (Body mass index values in the gentry and peasantry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Poland).

War conditions had a negative impact on the health and well-being of people, not only through low standards and quality of life, including food shortages, famine, and poor hygiene but also due to the extreme psychological stress associated with the possibility of loss of life, family members, devastation and loss of property. In two next papers, the impact of the WWII on biological characteristics was captured. It was compared the body size and age at menarche of young adult college women who were born before, during and after WWII. Young women born during WWII were shorter and lighter than those born before and after the war and attained menarche later than those born in the pre-war and post-war periods.

The latter two works are led by Dr. Grażyna Liczbińska, Dr. Zbigniew Czapla, Prof. Janusz Piontek (from Institute of Anthropology, Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland) and Prof. Robert M. Malina (from Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas, Austin, USA).

The study, Body size of young adult Polish college-age women born before, during and after WWII was recently published in the American Journal of Human Biology. The study, Age at menarche in Polish University students born before, during and after World War II: economic effects was recently published in the journal Economics and Human Biology.

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