Recessions – good for your health?

A couple of weeks back, writing in the Sindo, Gene Kerrigan made the not unreasonable assertion that severe recessions cause unnecessary deaths.

We saw all this before.

During the Eighties, savage cuts inflicted lasting pain and cost lives — someone had to pay for the crisis.

Meanwhile, known to the establishment — who were up to their necks in it — the fortunes of the elite were safeguarded using massive tax frauds.

An article in yesterdays Guardian refutes this

Wrong – at least if the experience of history, and one bit of history in particular, is anything to go by. Few economic downturns have been as dramatic and as deep as the Great Depression that overtook America during the 1930s. But figures from that time show that mortality fell and life expectancy increased. The data suggest that economic hardship is good for health. Can this be true?

Well not specifically Gene Kerrigan – but why might this be so?

So what is going on? There is evidence that in periods of economic expansion people smoke and drink more, sleep less, work longer, experience more stress, and suffer more industrial injures – all bad for health.

And what of the period of economic contraction? It’s a mirror image, he says, in which most of these influences are reversed. An enforced switch to part-time working, for example. “To work many hours per day increases risk of heart attack. Fewer hours decreases risk. During recessions road traffic deaths decrease and during expansion they increase.” Hence the counterintuitive outcome; recovery from recession, not the recession itself, does harm.

Go read it all – The real reason Swedes live longer

No bio, some books worth reading – The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves – Matt Ridley .

Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance -Nouriel Roubini, Stephen Mihm

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