Tuberculosis (TB) is a poverty-related disease that is associated with poor living conditions. We studied TB mortality and living conditions in Bern between 1856 and 1950.
We analysed cause-specific mortality based on mortality registers certified by autopsies, and public health reports 1856 to 1950 from the city council of Bern.
TB mortality was higher in the Black Quarter (550 per 100,000) and in the city centre (327 per 100,000), compared to the outskirts (209 per 100,000 in 1911–1915). TB mortality correlated positively with the number of persons per room (r = 0.69, p = 0.026), the percentage of rooms without sunlight (r = 0.72, p = 0.020), and negatively with the number of windows per apartment (r = -0.79, p = 0.007). TB mortality decreased 10-fold from 330 per 100,000 in 1856 to 33 per 100,000 in 1950, as housing conditions improved, indoor crowding decreased, and open-air schools, sanatoria, systematic tuberculin skin testing of school children and chest radiography screening were introduced.