Health and Recessions Again

Cormac O Grada recently blogged here about the link between recessions and health, citing a comment made by Brendan Walsh on an article in the BMJ.  Some more evidence in a couple of recent working papers.  One by Christopher Ruhm, who has written quite a lot on this topic (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2308256) and the other by authors from Georgia State University (http://ftp.iza.org/dp7538.pdf).  Both papers seem to suggest that the link between health (and health behaviours) and the economic cycle has become weaker in recent years, and at a macro level appears to be practically zero, though this masks some links for individual conditions.  This is not inconsistent with some of Brendan’s recent work for Ireland ( http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/WP11_27.pdf) and some recent work which I did ( http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/WP13_05.pdf, see tables 9 and 10 and figures 6 and 7) which indicate that the correlation between income and self-reported health appears to be weakening, particularly below the poverty line.  Following on from another recent post, the weaker link between health and income below the poverty line is not just because older people (who typically have poorer health) have seen their relative position improve during the recent recession.  The results also holds for under-65s.

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7 thoughts on “Health and Recessions Again”

  1. This one also looks like worth a scan …

    Callan, T., B. Nolan, C. Keane, M. Savage and J. Walsh, (2013): “Crisis, Response and Distributional Impact: The Case of Ireland”, ESRI Working Paper, No. 456.

    @David Madden

    Keep tracking – at least up to 2018. There has to be a ‘lag’ …

    … a reduced correlation between income and health might not be a bad development! … for the lower echelons.

  2. Recessions are good for your health. Lets have more recessions and everybodies heath will improve.

  3. Maybe.

    Less drink and less drunk driving is easy to understand while on some other issues, commonsense maybe as useful as an economics paper.

    During ‘normal’ times, 34% of US adults are obese; an estimated 26.2% of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health and a growing epidemic of overdoses of prescription painkillers is leading to a record numbers of deaths, especially among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s latest figures show that 16,500 people died from overdoses tied to common narcotic pain relievers — such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana and methadone — in 2010. Of those, 40% were women.

    A record 4.02bn drug prescriptions were written in the US in 2011, up from 3.99bn the year before, according to the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Antidepressants such as Zoloft and Celexa were the most prescribed class of drugs in 2011, with 264m prescriptions filled. Slightly more than 131m prescriptions were written for generic Vicodin.

    According to Gallup, Americans living in the nation’s metropolitan areas with the lowest wellbeing are about twice as likely to report having a heart attack than are residents living in the metros with the highest wellbeing. An average of 5.5% of Americans living in the 10 metro areas with the lowest wellbeing in the US report having had a heart attack, compared with 2.8% of residents in the 10 metro areas with the highest levels of wellbeing.

    Poor people would have poor diets through boom and bust.

    So with all this going on also in a recession, what does a rise or fall signal?

    According to Matthew Yglesias of Slate, the US divorce rate fell from 3.6 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2007 to 3.5 divorces per 1,000 in 2008 to 3.4 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2009. What’s more, there’s reason to believe that this is no coincidence. “The bad economy is actually keeping people’s marriages together—divorce is expensive.” In the UK, Office for National Statistics data shows number of couples getting divorced increased by 4.9% from 2009 to 2010. I haven’t looked at the latest.

    In Ireland I would wonder how many unemployed people would seek medical help for depression or a related rises in alcohol consumption.

    As David O’Donnell suggested, it’s too early to assess the impacts of a huge change in economic fortunes for good and bad in two-decade period.

    Some people have to face a reality of never working again and pensioner poverty ahead. Past history shows that people living in Ireland may have a greater susceptibility to mental illness in general, and to schizophrenia in particular.

    Being unemployed and unemployable because of age during a wet winter week in a place like Ballina would be grim.

    During 2005 in Ireland, 5,527 people received treatment for problem alcohol use, according to the HRB National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS); and 2,995 people were admitted to psychiatric units with an alcohol-related illness. Data from the NDTRS also show that 2,827 people entered treatment for the first time in 2005.

    So the end of the boom would likely have improved the figures but that doesn’t suggest that the recession, which severely impacts a smaller number of the population, has not wrecked the health of other people.

    Various Gallup polls in several countries show rising stress with rising unemployment.

    So there are health consequences for feasts and famines.

  4. @ brendan walsh

    I have a theory as to why there is less of a correlation between lowering birthrates and unemployment in this recession v the one in the 80’s

    The average age for a planned pregnancy is much higher now than it was in the 80’s. Female work participation has also increased over that time.
    Unemployment increases effect young people more.
    (The number of people over 35 working in the economy is the same now as it was in 2007.)

    Therefore a larger % of couples who want to have a baby have a Job/s now than would have been the case in the 80’s

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