Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Bad economy may be good for your health

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Oct• 08•08

While your wallet may be a little lighter and your 401(k) may have taken a beating, the economic downturn may actually improve your health.

The N.Y. Times reports that “people tend not to take care of themselves in boom times — drinking too much (especially before driving), dining on fat-laden restaurant meals and skipping exercise and doctors’ appointments because of work-related time commitments.”

When the economy slows, individuals don’t work as hard which reduces stress.  Also, people have more time to spend with their family.  Economic slowdowns often mean less driving, which will significantly reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents.  I have also read some paper where economic slowdowns reduce pollution and thus decrease mortality rates.

“In May 2000, the Quarterly Journal of Economics published a surprising paper called “Are Recessions Good for Your Health?” by Christopher J. Ruhm…Dr. Ruhm found that death rates declined sharply in the 1974 and 1982 recessions, and increased in the economic recovery of the 1980s. An increase of one percentage point in state unemployment rates correlated with a 0.5 percentage point decline in the death rate — or about 5 fewer deaths per 100,000 people.

One clear caveat must be noted however.  While cyclical downturns may be good for an individual’s health, “It’s clear that long-term economic gains lead to improvements in a population’s overall health.”

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