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Hospitalism was a pediatric diagnosis used in the 1930s to describe infants who wasted away while in hospital. The symptoms could include retarded physical development, and disruption of perceptual-motor skills and language. It is now understood that this wasting disease was mostly caused by to a lack of social contact between the infant and its caregivers. Infants in poorer hospitals were less subject to this disease since those hospitals could not afford incubators which meant that the hospital staff regularly held the infants.

The term was used by the psychotherapist René Spitz in 1945, but its origins are older than this; it occurs in an editorial in Archives on Pediatrics as early as 1897[1].

See alsoEdit


  • Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, R Sapolsky, Henry Holt & Co 2004, p 366
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