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Healthy living in hard times

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  • Ruhm, Christopher J.

Abstract

Using microdata for adults from the 1987-2000 years of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, I show that smoking and height-adjusted weight decline during temporary economic downturns while leisure-time physical activity rises. The drop in tobacco use occurs disproportionately among heavy smokers, the fall in body weight among the severely obese, and the increase in exercise among those who were completely inactive. Declining work hours may provide one reason why behaviors become healthier when the economy weakens, possibly by increasing the non-market time available for lifestyle investments. Conversely, there is little evidence that reductions in income play an important role. The overall conclusion is that changes in behaviors supply one mechanism for the procyclical variation in mortality and morbidity observed in recent research.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 24 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 (March)
Pages: 341-363

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:24:y:2005:i:2:p:341-363

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505560

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References

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  2. Wagstaff, Adam, 1985. "Time series analysis of the relationship between unemployment and mortality: A survey of econometric critiques and replications of Brenner's studies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 21(9), pages 985-996, January.
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  7. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Frank J. Chaloupka & Kenneth E. Warner, 1999. "The Economics of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 7047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 1999. "Asymptotic Properties of Weighted M-Estimators for Variable Probability Samples," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1385-1406, November.
  17. Ruhm, Christopher J., 1995. "Economic conditions and alcohol problems," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 583-603, December.
  18. Christopher J. Ruhm & William E. Black, 2001. "Does Drinking Really Decrease in Bad Times?," NBER Working Papers 8511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Freeman, Donald G., 1999. "A note on 'Economic conditions and alcohol problems'," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 659-668, October.
  20. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
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  23. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Good times make you sick," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 637-658, July.
  24. Stephen E. Snyder & William N. Evans, 2002. "The Impact of Income on Mortality: Evidence from the Social Security Notch," NBER Working Papers 9197, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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