NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Health Effects of Economic Crises

Christopher J. Ruhm

NBER Working Paper No. 21604
Issued in October 2015
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

This analysis summarizes prior research and uses national, state and county level data from the United States from 1976-2013 to examine whether the mortality effects of economic crises differ in kind from those of the more typical fluctuations. The tentative conclusion is that economic crises affect mortality rates (and presumably other measures of health) in the same way as less severe downturns: namely, they lead to improvements in physical health. The effects of severe national recessions in the United States, appear to have a beneficial effect on mortality that is roughly twice as strong as that predicted due to the elevated unemployment rates alone while the higher predicted rate of suicides during typical periods of economic weakness is approximately offset during severe recessions. No consistent pattern is obtained for more localized economic crises occurring at the state level – some estimates suggest larger protective mortality effects while others indicate offsetting deleterious consequences.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21604

Published: Christopher J. Ruhm, 2016. "Health Effects of Economic Crises," Health Economics, vol 25, pages 6-24. citation courtesy of

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