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Great Depression did not significantly improve life expectancy in the US
Date:3/25/2011

th the rises and falls in mortality.

Overall, the authors found that a higher rate of bank suspensions was significantly associated with higher suicide but lower death rates from motor-vehicle accidents; no significant effects were observed for 30 other causes of death. Consistent with smaller-scale studies of this period, the authors found no evidence of a delayed, longer-term effect of the Great Depression on population health. Using alternative measures, such as economic output and personal income, the authors found similar patterns.

The authors concluded: "We found that mortalities in US urban populations significantly fell during the Great Depression. We were able to confirm our hypothesis that, within this overall change, there were some components, such as reductions in infectious disease mortality and increases in deaths from chronic diseases that were independent of bank suspensions. Thus, these changes cannot clearly be linked to the Great Depression."

The authors note that it is likely that the New Deal, the birth of the U.S. social security system and large fiscal stimulus, combined with Prohibition of alcohol, helped to prevent a major mortality crisis. They show that, after Prohibition was lifted in 1933, in an effort to stimulate the economy, alcohol-related mortality increased significantly. Other regions that introduced major cuts to social welfare had differing patterns of mortality during crises, the authors note, pointing to the mortality crises in eastern European during their economic depressions of the 1990s. They conclude, "Future work is needed to understand the potentially protective effects of the New Deal and Prohibition."


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Contact: Martin McKee
martin.mckee@lshtm.ac.uk
44-079-738-32576
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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