It seems counterintuitive. How could you be better off when the economy is failing? When there are fewer jobs, less wealth; and well, less hope to go around. How could one be healthier?
That’s the surprising theory that economists are studying, including Professor Ryan Edwards at Queens College, City University of New York and Professor Christopher J. Ruhm at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Their research noticed a correlation between falling death rates and periods of economic recession. They argue that during times of economic turmoil, people do not have to work as hard as they do during economic boom times.
This doesn’t only apply to those who become unemployed; even those who keep their jobs end up working less because the overall economy slows. This leaves people more time to exercise, spend time with their families, and participate in other health-boosting activities.
Gyms in New York City have noticed an up tick in usage. People we spoke with say they like going to the gym because it helps relieve stress and helps them to focus.
Economists also point out that people tend to eat out less often when money is tight; instead they cook healthier meals at home. There’s also a public health aspect: Economists say when the economy slows, so do factories, which can help ease air pollution.
As with all theories, there are some different opinions. For one, economic turmoil can lead to depression and a reduction in physical health. And, workers who lose their jobs also lose their health insurance, which makes staying physically well challenging.
Not a bulletproof idea perhaps, but maybe a glimmer of hope in a gloomy outlook.