Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The upside of some economic downturns

From Sciensmagazine discussion The Upside of Recessions of Life and death during the Great Depression:
"Tapia Granados's team found an inverse association between economic health and population health: Life expectancy fell during economic upturns and increased during recessions. Mortality, meanwhile, tended to rise during economic upturns and fall during recessions. Deaths related to flu and pneumonia, for example, fell from about 150 per 100,000 people in 1929 to roughly 100 per 100,000 people in 1930, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Suicide was the only cause of death that increased during times of economic turmoil. For life expectancy, the patterns were particularly obvious among nonwhites: Between 1921 and 1926, a period of economic growth, life expectancy declined 8.1 years among nonwhite males and 7.4 years among nonwhite females. During the Great Depression, on the other hand, life expectancy among nonwhites increased by 8 years."
From comment by Peter Coffee
"This seems like utterly unsurprising confirmation of what has previously been seen in data on health in England during and following World War II rationing.
"It is ironic, but understandable, that Britons who were young during those years of food rationing were the healthiest generation on record: you only have to look at photographs of the children—lean but robust. There was little meat, butter or lard to clog their arteries and very little sugar or sweets of any kind to create cavities or rot their teeth. Consequently our diet was low in carbohydrates and saturated fat." (
"As soon as wartime restrictions were lifted people celebrated with good old fashioned self indulgence...Consumed calories soared as people over-reacted to the years of rationing. Obesity in young children become evident as parents tried to ‘make up’ for sugar rationing; while dentists saw a return to almost pre-war levels of tooth decay. Heart disease also increased as consumption of fats hit new heights." (
This seems like independent confirmation of the same behaviors."
More discussion in GNXP and Scientific American
Earlier papers by Jose A Tapia Granados on the relations between economic expansions and mortality in US, Spain, Japan, Sweden are linked in

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