I just read this article about whether or not recessions are good for people's health.
According to several researchers, mortality decreases during recessions, but this might be inaccurate.
Some researchers have found that death rates fall during recessions. But a new study argues such findings may be distorted by migration, as people move away from places that have fallen on hard times and flock to places with booming economies.
Below are some of the rationale for why recessions are bad for health, then some rationale for why they are good for health.
It's the latest chapter in an ongoing debate among economists about whether recessions are good or bad in terms of health outcomes. On the one hand, job loss can mean stress and depression, increased substance abuse and the loss of health insurance. On the other hand, unemployed people may benefit from having more time to exercise; less money to spend on alcohol, cigarettes and other vices; and no need to drive to work, reducing the number of fatal car crashes.
"There is considerable evidence that harmful behaviors - like heavy drinking and smoking - decrease in bad economic times, whereas health-enhancing activities such as exercise and social interactions increase," University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm wrote in a 2015 study. The study described a procyclical relationship between business cycles and death rates: U.S. mortality rises during expansions and falls during recessions.
But the new working paper, distributed in June by the National Bureau of Economic Research, argued that migration can distort the picture. For instance, when people move away from regions experiencing an economic downturn, annual population estimates may not fully capture that movement, skewing mortality-rate data. Economic booms could also attract an influx of young, healthy workers, affecting regional mortality rates by changing the local population's demographics.
Adjusting for those factors, the three economists said mortality appeared to increase rather than decline during the British textile-region downturn, and there was "little evidence...that the Appalachian coal boom had any real effect on underlying population mortality."
After reading the article, I still believe that recessions do not benefit health or decrease mortality rates. I agree that, as a general rule, alcohol and cigarette consumption decreases during a recession and that unemployed people have more time, but I struggle to see how that offsets the impact of stress. In addition, the article states that a few economists agree that recessions do not necessarily make people healthier.
Do you think that recessions generally make people healthier?
Do you think that recessions make you healthier?