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Better Health in Times of Hardship?

Jofre-Bonet, M., Serra-Sastre, V. & Vandoros, S. (2016). Better Health in Times of Hardship? (16/09). London, UK: Department of Economics, City, University of London.


This paper examines the impact that the Great Recession had on individuals’ health behaviours and risk factors such as diet choices, smoking, alcohol consumption, and Body Mass Index, as well as on intermediate health outcomes in England. We exploit data from the Health Survey for England for the period 2001-2013 and capture the change in macroeconomic conditions using regional Unemployment Rates (URs) and an indicator variable for the onset of the recession. We observe an overall tendency towards moderation in smoking and alcohol intake. Interestingly, the recession indicator itself is associated to a decrease in fruit intake, a shift of the BMI distribution towards obesity, an increase in medicines consumption, and the likelihood of suffering diabetes, heart and mental health problems. These associations are more intense for the less educated and for women. When it exists, the association with UR tends to weaken after 2008. Our findings indicate that some of the health risks and intermediate health outcomes changes are associated with mechanisms not captured solely by worsened URs. We hypothesize that the uncertainty and the negative expectations generated by the recession may have influenced individual health outcomes and behaviours beyond the adjustments induced by the worsened macroeconomic conditions. The net effect translated in the erosion of the propensity to undertake several health risky behaviours but an exacerbation of some morbidity indicators.

Publication Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Additional Information: Copyright 2016 the authors
Publisher Keywords: Great Recession, health behaviour, risky health behaviour, morbidity, unemployment, Health Survey for England
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics > Discussion Paper Series
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