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Emigration leads to growth in lunacy
The interior of Waterford District Lunatic Asylum during the late 19th Century Photo: National Library of Ireland, P_WP_0131

Emigration leads to growth in lunacy

Dublin, 13 August 1915 - The number of cases of lunacy in Ireland increased by 171 in the past year.

This figure, according to the Annual Report of the Inspectors of Lunacy in Ireland, brings the total number of ‘insane under care’ to some 25,180.

This is almost double the number of ‘insane under care’ in 1880 - something made all the more remarkable by the fact that the population of Ireland actually declined by approximately 800,000 people over the same period.

Dr Catherine Cox, UCD, discusses the treatment and institutionalisation of the mentally ill in Ireland in the 1910s.

It is claimed that emigration - reputed to take away the young and healthy, leaving the old and infirm behind - is the principal cause for the growth in lunacy. Many insane persons who were previously retained at home by their relatives are now placed by them in asylums. Another contributing factor is the dramatic improvement in the condition and care provided by district lunatic asylums.

In this vein, the quality of care provided to lunatics may serve to prolong life and thereby swell the numbers further.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.