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Is a bad economy good for our health?

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that life expectancy rises in tough economic times, and declines when the economy is going strong.

The basic finding of the paper is that mortality rates tend to evolve in parallel to the economy,” said lead study author Jose Tapia Granados, an assistant research scientist at University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. “When the economy goes up, mortality tends to go up. When the economy goes down, mortality rates tend to go down, too.”

The study did not dig deeper as to why people lived longer, however several possible reasons have been given, including more disposable income means more money for food (overeating), cigarettes and alcohol.  Some also think that increase in traffic accidents may play a factor.  And, it is postulated, in times of economic prosperity people have more work to do and the stress levels are higher. Though in my experience during bad economic conditions there are less people to do the work so the ones that are left are overworked, I guess you could go either way with that.

Not surprisingly, the one type of death that increased in the Great Depression (which this study mainly focused on) was suicide, up 2%. but overall that has little impact on life expectancy. I was always under the impression that the increase in suicide was much higher during that time.

So its an interesting study, and certainly counter intuitive. It would be revealing for someone to pick up where this left off and help to answer the question ‘why’. I’d also like to see some trends regarding this not just from a physical health perspective, but mental and emotional as well.

While no one would argue being broke and unemployed is a desirable state, the opposite assertion–that being rich and materially ’successful’ is the key to happiness–is similarly untenable.  You can’t buy happiness as they say.  There have been studies I’ve seen previously that clearly indicate people who are less affluent (though not in grinding poverty) tend to have a higher level of satisfaction, contentment and happiness than those who are classified as rich. One reason I came across was that the more people had, the more they desired. Its also interesting to note that poorer people were more philanthropically generous as well.

On a deeper level, all these physical states come and go (rich, poor, healthy, sick etc.),  indeed a single individual might expect to experience all of them several times in their life. So regardless of someone’s opinion about this study, the question is how do we effectively deal with all that life throws our way, how do we attain that happiness which we know instinctively we cant buy?

One might assert that the key to tranquility is a spiritual connection with the Divine which provides a rudder as we navigate through whatever material state we may find ourselves in…
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Reuters: Recessions may be good for your health: study

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