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U-M study: Life and death during the Great Depression
Date:9/28/2009

uring expansions, firms are very busy, and they typically demand a lot of effort from employees, who are required to work a lot of overtime, and to work at a fast pace. This can create stress, which is associated with more drinking and smoking.

"Also, new workers may be hired who are inexperienced, so injuries are likely to be more common. And people who are working a lot may also sleep less which is known to have implications for health. Other health-related behaviors such as diet may also change for the worse during expansions."

In recessions, Tapia Granados noted, there is less work to do, so employees can work at a slower pace. There is more time to sleep, and because people have less money, they are less likely to spend as much on alcohol and tobacco.

In addition, economic expansions are also associated with increases in atmospheric pollution which has well-documented short-term effects on cardiovascular and respiratory mortality. Other reasons that periods of economic expansion may be bad for health could include increases in social isolation and decreases in social support that typically occur when people are working more.

The researchers noted that their study examined the relation between recessions and mortality for the population as a whole, and not the effect of becoming unemployed on an individual person. In fact, their results show that downturns in economic activity may have overall beneficial effects on the population, even if becoming unemployed has adverse health consequences for a given person.

"Social science is not physics," Tapia Granados said. "But regularities in the past allow us at least some confidence in forecasting the future. Historical experience tells us that no particular deterioration of mortality is to be expected as a consequence of a recession beyond an increase in suicides which, although clearly important, is of small magnitude compared to the reduced number of fatalities from ot
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Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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