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Recessions may be good for your health


The recession itself may be difficult on us psychologically but a study suggesting the current recession may improve health.

Unemployment, home foreclosures, bankruptcy, and constant worry apparently never killed anyone. That is what the study at the University of Michigan discovered. The U.S. life expectancy increased by 6 years between 1929 and 1932, from 57 to 63 with the increase occurring for both men and women. They also discovered that the death toll from disease, accidents and infant mortality during the Great Depression also fell. Does this mean the recession is good for your health?

"The finding is strong and counter-intuitive," said researcher Jose Tapia Granados from the university's Institute for Social Research. "Most people assume that periods of high unemployment are harmful to health."

In one groundbreaking study in 2000 on the impact of joblessness, for example, Christopher Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, examined statewide mortality fluctuations in the U.S. between 1972 and 1991 and found that a 1% rise in a state's unemployment rate led to a 0.6% decrease in total mortality.

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Stephen Bezruchka of The University of Washington School of Public Health suggests the results could be explained by the fact that people cannot afford to smoke or do excessive alcohol consumption or overeat as a way to save money. People also tend to spend more time with family and friends and sleep, which can all be good for your health.

"The idea that hard work never killed anyone is one of those maxims that turns out not to be true," Bezruchka tells TIME. "One of the characteristics of a rapidly expanding economy is that people try to garner as much income as they can, working long hours and even multiple jobs. Spending time with friends and family is good for your health."

Adam Coutts of Oxford University, one of the authors of the Lancet study, believes that recessions have other harmful social effects not directly related to health and that measuring an economic downturn's overall health impact is a problematic undertaking. "It is true, for instance, that mortality rates reduced significantly during the Great Depression, but that era also saw the rise of fascism, followed by a world war," he says. "So there's no simple way to measure the impact of recessions on a population's welfare."

More studies will have to be concluded as far as recessions may be good for your health. What we do know is the death toll seems to be less effected by rescission.

Materials from the USA Today and Time are used in this report.

Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona
Exclusive to eMaxHealth