Living Without a Job Can Kill You but Recessions are Healthy: Study Reveals

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By Indrani Bhattacharyya | July 30, 2014 12:01 PM EST

Living without a job can cause death but recession seems to be good for health; strange but true.

Scientists from Drexel University and the University of Michigan conducted a study using a nationally representative panel of individuals across the United States.

Reuters
A farmer carries a shovel over his shoulder as he walks to tend his crops in a field that includes an abandoned building, that was to be part of an amusement park called 'Wonderland', on the outskirts of Beijing December 5, 2011. Construction work at the park, which was promoted by developers as 'the largest amusement park in Asia', stopped around 1998 after funds were withdrawn due to disagreements over property prices with the local government and farmers.

The study was published in July 2014 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

It was found that job loss is associated with a 73 percent increase in the probability of death; the equivalent of adding 10 years to an individual’s age.

But it was further revealed that this increased risk affects only the minority of people who are unemployed and is outweighed by health-promoting effects of an economic slowdown that affect the entire population.

"Most people believe that being unemployed is a bad thing. But what many people don't realize is that economic expansions which usually reduce joblessness also have effects that are harmful for society at large,” said lead author José Tapia, PhD, an economist and population health researcher in Drexel University.

The data was collected and researchers made models in which the hazard and probability of death were statistically calculated. The data was further used to find out the way risk of death depends on both the employment conditions of the individual and the contextual economic conditions surrounding that person.

."According to the report by Science Daily, the increase in the risk of death associated with being unemployed is very strong but it is restricted to unemployed persons, who generally are a small fraction of the population, even in a severe recession. Compared with the increase in the risk of death among the unemployed, the decrease of the mortality risk associated with a weakening economy is small, but the benefit spreads across the entire adult population. The compound result of both effects is that total mortality rises in expansions and falls in recessions. Tapia explained"

Researchers believe that the increase in the risk of death associated with individual joblessness may be linked with huge stress and depression which often lead to substance abuse and other harmful behaviours. Atmospheric pollution which strongly increases in economic upturns and diminishes in recessions may turn out to be one of mechanisms explaining why population mortality decreases when the economy goes down.

Time to survive a recession with a smile.

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(Photo: Reuters / David Gray)
A farmer carries a shovel over his shoulder as he walks to tend his crops in a field that includes an abandoned building, that was to be part of an amusement park called 'Wonderland', on the outskirts of Beijing December 5, 2011. Construction work at the park, which was promoted by developers as 'the largest amusement park in Asia', stopped around 1998 after funds were withdrawn due to disagreements over property prices with the local government and farmers.
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