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Sunlight and Protection Against Influenza

Author

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  • Slusky, David J. G.

    (University of Kansas)

  • Zeckhauser, Richard J.

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Recent medical literature suggests that vitamin D supplementation protects against acute respiratory tract infection. Humans exposed to sunlight produce vitamin D directly. This paper investigates how differences in sunlight, as measured over several years within states and during the same calendar month, affect influenza incidence. We find that sunlight strongly protects against influenza. This relationship is driven by sunlight in late summer and early fall, when there are sufficient quantities of both sunlight and influenza activity. A 10% increase in relative sunlight decreases the influenza index in September by 3 points on a 10-point scale. This effect is far greater than the effect of vitamin D supplementation in randomized trials, a differential due to broad exposure to sunlight, hence herd immunity. We also find suggestive evidence, consistent with herd immunity theory, that the protective sunlight effect is strongest with a middle level of population density.

Suggested Citation

  • Slusky, David J. G. & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2018. "Sunlight and Protection Against Influenza," Working Paper Series rwp18-007, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp18-007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Guidetti, Bruna & Pereda, Paula & Severnini, Edson R., 2020. "Health Shocks under Hospital Capacity Constraint: Evidence from Air Pollution in Sao Paulo, Brazil," IZA Discussion Papers 13211, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Yun Qiu & Xi Chen & Wei Shi, 2020. "Impacts of social and economic factors on the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(4), pages 1127-1172, October.
    4. Zhang, Xin & Wang, Yixuan & Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xun, 2019. "Prenatal Sunshine Exposure and Birth Outcomes in China," IZA Discussion Papers 12877, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Corey White, 2018. "Measuring the Social and Externality Benefits of Influenza Vaccination," Working Papers 1803, California Polytechnic State University, Department of Economics.
    6. Bruna Morais Guidetti & Paula Carvalho Pereda, Edson Roberto Severnini, 2021. "Health Shocks under Hospital Capacity Constraints: Evidence from Air Pollution in São Paulo, Brazil," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2021_05, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
    7. Conway, Karen Smith & Trudeau, Jennifer, 2019. "Sunshine, fertility and racial disparities," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 18-39.
    8. Amanda Guimbeau & Nidhiya Menon & Aldo Musacchio, 2020. "The Brazilian Bombshell? The Long-Term Impact of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic the South American Way," NBER Working Papers 26929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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