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Are Recessions Good for Your Health Behaviors? Impacts of the Economic Crisis in Iceland

  • Tinna Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir
  • Hope Corman
  • Kelly Noonan
  • Þórhildur Ólafsdóttir
  • Nancy E. Reichman
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    This study exploits the October 2008 economic crisis in Iceland to identify the effects of a macroeconomic downturn on a range of health behaviors. Using longitudinal survey data that include pre- and post- reports from the same individuals, we investigate the effects of the crisis on smoking, heavy drinking, dietary behaviors, sleep, and other health behaviors and investigate changes in work hours, real income, wealth, and mental health as potential mediators. We also consider the role of prices in shaping health behaviors and compute participation elasticities for the various behaviors. We find that the crisis led to reductions in all health-compromising behaviors examined and that it led to reductions in certain health-promoting behaviors but increases in others. The individual-level mediators explained some, but not all of the effects. We infer that price increases played a large role in the effects of the crisis on health behaviors.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18233.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2012
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    Publication status: published as Ásgeirsdóttir, T., Corman, H., Noonan, K., Ólafsdóttir, Þ., Reichman, N. (2014). "Was the Economic Crisis of 2008 Good for Icelanders? Impact on Health Behaviors." Economics and Human Biology 13: 1– 19,
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18233
    Note: HE
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    1. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," IZA Discussion Papers 711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Xin Xu & Robert Kaestner, 2010. "The Business Cycle and Health Behaviors," NBER Working Papers 15737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Tinna Asgeirsdottir & Gylfi Zoega, 2011. "On the economics of sleeping," Mind and Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 10(2), pages 149-164, December.
    5. Gregory J. Colman & Dhaval M. Dave, 2011. "Exercise, Physical Activity, and Exertion over the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 17406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Dhaval M. Dave & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2010. "How Does the Business Cycle Affect Eating Habits?," NBER Working Papers 16638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Barnes Michael G & Smith Trenton G., 2009. "Tobacco Use as Response to Economic Insecurity: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-29, November.
    8. John A. Tauras, 2006. "Smoke-Free Air Laws, Cigarette Prices, and Adult Cigarette Demand," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 333-342, April.
    9. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Good times make you sick," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 637-658, July.
    10. Ruhm, Christopher J. & Black, William E., 2002. "Does drinking really decrease in bad times?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 659-678, July.
    11. Charles, Kerwin Kofi & DeCicca, Philip, 2008. "Local labor market fluctuations and health: Is there a connection and for whom?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 1532-1550, December.
    12. Thomas S. Dee, 2001. "Alcohol abuse and economic conditions: Evidence from repeated cross-sections of individual-level data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(3), pages 257-270.
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