It may seem strange, but bad economic times can actually improve your health. Recently, the University of Michigan published the results of a study about health an tough economic times. CNN reported on the study, which found that during the Great Depression mortality rates fell, and life expectancy increased. Prior to the Great Depression, the study discovered, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and traffic accidents all contributed to deaths.
When one thinks about this, though, it makes a lot of sense. The study pointed out that in the years of prosperity that usually precede a recession, there are a lot of people spending money on rich foods, drink and party items. Smoking was probably a big thing prior to the Great Depression. When you have money, you want to spend it on having fun. And in a lot of cases excess leads to health problems. (Obesity epidemic, anyone?)
However, a recession puts the brakes on these sorts of spending excursions. We’ve seen it in this most recent recession. At least we’ve seen a trend toward frugality and smarter personal finances. People are eating out less and cooking more meals at home. The implication is that these home cooked meals are healthier, as well as being less expensive. Other lifestyle changes, such as walking or biking instead of driving the car, and looking for less expensive family activities (which often involve the outdoors), can also contribute to better health.
The study also points out that unemployment meant a lower incidence of work-related deaths and industrial accidents during the Great Depression. I suppose that during the most recent recession, being out of work could lead to less mental and job-related stress. Which could help one’s health. Of course, looking for a job and worrying about how to pay the bills can contribute to a different kind of stress…
Overall, though, it appears that there are some health benefits associated with a recession. However, if you live a frugal lifestyle when the economy is booming, you can still receive the health benefits that come with more activity and lower-cost, healthier home cooked meals.