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Macroeconomic Conditions, Health and Mortality

  • Christopher J. Ruhm

Although health is conventionally believed to deteriorate during macroeconomic downturns, the empirical evidence supporting this view is quite weak and comes from studies containing methodological shortcomings that are difficult to remedy. Recent research that better controls for many sources of omitted variables bias instead suggests that mortality decreases and physical health improves when the economy temporarily weakens. This partially reflects reductions in external sources of death, such as traffic fatalities and other accidents, but changes in lifestyles and health behaviors are also likely to play a role. This paper summarizes our current understanding of how health is affected by macroeconomic fluctuations and describes potential mechanisms for the effects.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11007.

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Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Jones, Andrew M. (ed.) Elgar Companion to Health Economics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11007
Note: HE
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  27. Ettner, Susan L., 1997. "Measuring the human cost of a weak economy: Does unemployment lead to alcohol abuse?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 251-260, January.
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