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I was trying to look this up earlier and could not easily find reliable information on the internet, mostly due to a new popular claim that 7 million people starved to death in the Great Depression! Otherwise, for the most part, what I could find were claims that no one starved to death, which are mostly predicated on the idea that all the deaths that seem like starvation are really severe malnutrition. According to the UN, malnutrition is still the leading cause of death in the world today. In the US, tens of thousands were dying during the years of the Depression from pellegra, which was cured in 1938 through niacin supplementation. This is known because there were Pellegra hospitals and it was believed to be an infectious disease so there are good records.

New York, which was 10% of the US population, was experiencing death by starvation and would keep track much better than most places, such as Appalachia or Oklahoma, where I would think it would be much, much worse before the New Deal programs started. There is evidence that many government agencies conducted studies on malnutrition levels, but at the time they did not have an established definition or complete understanding of the symptoms of malnutrition would be or even what foods a person must eat to not die. Source: this and this

So, I would be very interested to know how many people died of malnutrition or lack of calories, if any estimate is possible.

Since it is already demonstrable false to me, it isn't necessary to disprove the claims in the Pravda article.

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Just goes to show you shouldn't believe what a paper called "Truth" says! –  andy256 Apr 1 '14 at 7:31
so the USSR state newspaper is still posting anti-American propaganda? The more things seem to change the more they stay the same it seems. –  jwenting Apr 1 '14 at 10:44
I have some family experience with this. My great-grandfather was a doctor in rural Oklahoma during the depression. My grandmother used to help him in the office, and told me stories of parents bringing in "sick" kids, and being given "prescriptions" for food, fillable at the drugstore downstairs. This was in SE Oklahoma, which was not even the part hardest-hit by the dust-bowl. –  T.E.D. Apr 1 '14 at 14:32
Sounds like a diversionary claim to try and offset the Ukraninan Famines in the 30s when Stalin intentionally starved about 10 million. –  Oldcat Apr 1 '14 at 20:51
@Oldcat The Russian researcher is arguing that the only proof the Ukraninian Terror Famine really happened is a statistical abnormality in the census data, so if he can be intectually dishonest, how does anyone know it even happened at all. His argument is getting lost and Americans are taking him dead seriously that 7 million people starved and the WPA was a Gulag. –  Razie Mah Apr 1 '14 at 21:34

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

According to my quick reading of the Life and death during the Great Depression by José A. Tapia Granadosa and Ana V. Diez Roux, the only noticeable increase of mortality was suicide, with a noticeable decline of mortality in every other category.

It's interesting that this paper was written in 2009, before the (shall we say) sensationalist Russian claim of 7 million deaths.

According also to Michael Mosley, life expectancy actually rose through the Great Depression. In his Horizon programme Eat, Fast and Live Longer he claims

From 1929 to 1933, in the darkest years of the great depression when people were eating far less, life expectancy increased by 6 years.

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This is the result of an amazing decline in TB (the Red Death). You can see it on their data table figures. The main vector of TB is milk... Looking at this, there could still be hundreds of thousands of famine deaths even though the mortality rate improved. –  Razie Mah Apr 1 '14 at 8:03
There is lot of discussion in other places (sorry, no refs yet) about whether deaths could have been attributed to malnutrition and related illnesses instead of starvation. There are also discussions accepting the argument put by Mosley (he didn't invent it) that life expectancy rose due to restricted food intake. I'll update my answer if I can find any refs. But overall, I don't see a strong case for large numbers of deaths. –  andy256 Apr 1 '14 at 9:37
seeing as the US diet was far higher than starvation standards before the GD, even a serious reduction would have been unlikely to induce starvation level conditions in the majority of the population. And with enough food available overall, and the US always having had a very active local charity network, it's quite likely there would have been help for at least the majority of those who could not afford to feed themselves. In fact for quite a few people a somewhat leaner diet may well have contributed to the increased life expectancy. –  jwenting Apr 1 '14 at 10:47
<ctd> of course that doesn't take into account the dustbowl in the mid west which devestated harvest for a few years, and may well have caused severe local hardship. But the transportation network (especially the railways) would have seen to both supply of aid and the evacuation of the afflicted (the number of hobos rose massively during that period). –  jwenting Apr 1 '14 at 10:49
@andy256 Let me reword that. I'm believing life expectancy rose at the population level from as shown in the paper: the end of Spanish Flu, a halt to increase in motor vehicle deaths, and the decrease in TB (I give credit to public health measures there). There are small improvements in heart attack deaths, which in interesting, and attributable to not working, not decreased food. IMO if famines really increased life expectancy there would be a plethora of data to support that and there is none. –  Razie Mah Apr 1 '14 at 18:57

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