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Healthy Living in Hard Times

  • Christopher J. Ruhm

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9468.

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Date of creation: Feb 2003
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Publication status: published as Ruhm, Christopher J. "Healthy Living In Hard Times," Journal of Health Economics, 2005, v24(2,Mar), 341-363.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9468
Note: HC HE
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  1. Ruhm, Christopher J., 1995. "Economic conditions and alcohol problems," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 583-603, December.
  2. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  3. Forbes, John F. & McGregor, Alan, 1984. "Unemployment and mortality in post-war Scotland," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 239-257, December.
  4. Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2006. "Deaths rise in good economic times: Evidence from the OECD," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 298-316, December.
  5. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "The Impact Of Air Pollution On Infant Mortality: Evidence From Geographic Variation In Pollution Shocks Induced By A Recession," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1121-1167, August.
  6. 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.
  7. John Cawley, 2000. "Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  9. Brenner, M. Harvey & Mooney, Anne, 1983. "Unemployment and health in the context of economic change," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 17(16), pages 1125-1138, January.
  10. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
  11. Butler, J. S., 2000. "Efficiency results of MLE and GMM estimation with sampling weights," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 25-37, May.
  12. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  13. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. Frank J. Chaloupka & Kenneth E. Warner, 1999. "The Economics of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 7047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Neumayer, Eric, 2004. "Recessions lower (some) mortality rates:: evidence from Germany," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 1037-1047, March.
  17. Theodore J. Joyce & Naci H. Mocan, 1991. "Unemployment and Infant Health: Times-Series Evidence from the State of Tennessee," NBER Working Papers 3694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Ettner, Susan L., 1996. "New evidence on the relationship between income and health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 67-85, February.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 1999. "Asymptotic Properties of Weighted M-Estimators for Variable Probability Samples," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1385-1406, November.
  22. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
  23. Vistnes, Jessica Primoff & Hamilton, Vivian, 1995. "The Time and Monetary Costs of Outpatient Care for Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 117-21, May.
  24. Freeman, Donald G., 1999. "A note on 'Economic conditions and alcohol problems'," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 659-668, October.
  25. Grossman, Michael, 1973. "Unemployment and Consumption: Note," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(1), pages 208-13, March.
  26. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Good times make you sick," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 637-658, July.
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