- Baz Ratner/Reuters
A new study has found that while recessions are unfortunate for the economy, they’re great for your health.
Mortality rates actually decrease substantially during recessions, found Christopher J. Ruhm at the University of Virginia in a new study, and the physical health of the American public actually improves.
Typically, says Ruhm, periods of high unemployment both on the national and state levels coincide with lower mortality rates. But this effect appears to be having a more amplified in some of the more recent recessions.
“What is new is evidence that the severe national recessions occurring at the beginning of the 1980s and the end of the first decade of the 21st century had a protective effect on total mortality that was around twice as large as that predicted by the higher unemployment rates occurring during such periods alone,” wrote Ruhm.
“Since the total mortality rate is 846.5 per 100,000 individuals, a 2.42 predicted fall per one point increase in unemployment and an additional 11.82 decrease during severe recessions correspond to 0.3% and 1.4% reductions, respectively,” wrote Ruhm.
This applies to both health-related deaths and deaths with external causes, such as car accidents.
There are, however, two sub-causes of death that seem to increase.
“These impacts vary across sources of death and it is noteworthy that the national recession coefficients were of the opposite sign for cardiovascular deaths and homicides, suggesting that the protective effect of higher unemployment rates was partially offset during such periods for these causes,” wrote Ruhm.
- Baz Ratner/Reuters
In typical recessions with upticks in unemployment, suicide rates move up noticeably. But Ruhm found that suicide rates during severe recessions with higher rates of unemployment are similar to rates during times of economic stability.
Ruhm does point out that a severe economic collapse that would impact the health system or specific local factors could contradict these findings.
“For instance, the breakup of the Soviet Union had enormous negative effects on Russian life expectancy, in part, because declines in alcohol prices led to increases alcohol-related problems,” wrote Ruhm. “Conversely, the Icelandic banking collapse in 2008 resulted in a currency devaluations that raised alcohol and cigarette prices, leading to reductions in drinking and smoking.”
So while stocks are tanking, incomes are decimated and the economy seems on the edge of collapse, just remember, it may be doing wonders for your health.