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Logo of procrsmedFormerly medchtJournal of the Royal Society of MedicineProceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine
Proc R Soc Med. 1928 January; 21(3): 419–430.
PMCID: PMC2101997

A Study of the Incidence of the Minor Psychoses—their Clinical and Industrial Importance


An inquiry into telegraphists' cramp showed an unsuspected prevalence of psychoneurotic symptoms among a control group of presumably healthy people. Learners in the school of telegraphy contained 19 per cent. of subjects having symptoms of significant severity.

These people with symptoms of minor psychoses are probably subject to excessive loss of time through illness. Records of various establishments show extraordinary variations in the gross amount of illness and also in its nature. Hence the investigation was now directed towards ascertaining the proportion of the population suffering from the minor psychoses, distribution in different occupations, and the probable influence of occupation in determining the incidence of psychoneurotic illness.

The inquiry consisted of personal interviews with voluntary subjects and tests with the McDougall-Schuster dotting machine. The method of examination is described and some observations are made on day-dreaming at work, the effect of noise, and the reaction of ex-Service men towards their war experiences. These three phenomena are found to vary according to the temperament of the subject.

Subjects are put in six groups assessed according to absence of symptoms or to their degree. A few examples of the major psychoses were met with and are excluded from the general statistics.

Description of the dotting test. Its results are found to be correlated with those of the psychological examination. Examples are given of hysteria, of hysteria with anxiety, of pure anxiety, and of obsessional states. Obsessional subjects produce extremely good dotting records, surpassing those of normal people.

The different groups are now classified according to their assessments. Roughly, 50 per cent. of the total number examined are found to be free from symptoms. There is some variability between different groups, but sickness rates seem to be independent of the number of minor psychoses that are found in each group. Laundry workers have as large a percentage of high assessments as clerical workers, but illness rates are low. Satisfaction of the workers with their work seems an important factor in illness.

Since the incidence of the minor psychoses varies little from group to group, and does not seem to be statistically related to the incidence of psychoneurotic illness, other factors must be at work and should be investigated.

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