Why Recessions Extend Lifespans

By Covering Business     March 14, 2012

Although poverty is associated with poor health outcomes, weak economic conditions can have the opposite effect: they tend to make people live longer.

In an article for Bloomberg, former White House budget director Peter Orszag uses a series of studies to argue that recessions can extend life expectancy.

During the most recent recession, life expectancy climbed from 77.9 in 2007 to 78.7 in 2010, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the three years leading up to that recession, life expectancy had climbed by less than a quarter as much.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis found (PDF) that for every one percent increase in a state’s unemployment rate, its mortality rates drops by 0.5%.

Researchers at the University of Michigan suggest people live longer during recessions for a variety of reasons. For example, fewer workers mean fewer stress-related heart attacks. Fewer commuters translates to fewer car accidents. And more free time yields better eating habits and more regular exercise routines.

Read Peter Orszag’s article.
Read the University of Michigan report, via the NBER.



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