Contrary to what you might assume, the nation’s overall health showed dramatic improvements during the Great Depression. Could something similar be happening right now? Does economic crisis actually make us healthier?
A Walletpop post, written by a doctor, by the way, looks back at the nation’s 1930s-era health trends and explores the possibilities:
The study of Depression Era health reveals that although the nation’s unemployment rate rose to over 22%, and despite economic activity dropping by 14%, the average life expectancy increased by 8.8 years. The nation saw a decrease in death caused by cardiovascular and renal diseases, cancer, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and motor vehicle accidents – all comprising the list of most common causes of death during the era. In fact, the only cause of death that increased during The Depression was suicide.
Researchers believe that lifestyle factors were a likely cause of the change in the mortality rate. Given the economic conditions, people had less money to spend on alcohol and cigarettes, both of which contribute to a decline in health. People were also more likely to cut down on their driving to conserve on gas expenses, which lead to a decrease in motor accidents.
Life has changed quite a bit since the Great Depression. But one thing holds up: Changing your lifestyle can dramatically affect your health, in ways good and bad. As the doctor writing this post says:
We need to remember that a downturn in the economy needn’t mean a decrease in overall health. It may be tempting to hit the local McDonald’s instead of cooking at home, or to buy more prepared and junk food because they seem to be bargains, but you can easily make affordable, healthy meals at home with a little bit of planning.
The recession has changed how people live. It may very well also change how long they live, and in what condition. The recession is thought of like a black hole, a plague, a total bummer. But, it turns out, the economic downturn may in fact be the answer to your prayers: It’s arguably made many people happier, and created a smarter, tougher breed of shopper. It may also be making us healthier.