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It’s official: recessions are bad for your health

Economic recessions are harmful to health, leading to a rise in suicides and an increase in mental health problems.
Depression

Economic recessions are harmful to health, leading to a rise in suicides and an increase in mental health problems.

Recessions are bad for you, especially if youre a man aged 25-44. Thats the conclusion of a systematic review of studies into the effects on health of the 2008 banking meltdown.

The financial crisis following the global economic downturn saw rises in suicide rates, particularly among men, and mental health problems, especially among women.

Researchers in London and California analysed 41 reports from 2008-2015 on the impact on health, many focusing on Spain and Greece.

Existing trends

One survey reported 846 more male suicides and 155 more female suicides in England from 2008-10 than would have been expected from existing trends. Another showed that by the end of 2012, the male suicide rate

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Economic recessions are harmful to health, leading to a rise in suicides and an increase in mental health problems.

Despression
Recessions are increasing risk of harm. Photo: iStock

Recessions are bad for you, especially if you’re a man aged 25-44. That’s the conclusion of a systematic review of studies into the effects on health of the 2008 banking meltdown.

The financial crisis following the global economic downturn saw rises in suicide rates, particularly among men, and mental health problems, especially among women.

Researchers in London and California analysed 41 reports from 2008-2015 on the impact on health, many focusing on Spain and Greece.

Existing trends

One survey reported 846 more male suicides and 155 more female suicides in England from 2008-10 than would have been expected from existing trends. Another showed that by the end of 2012, the male suicide rate was 57% higher in Ireland (476 more deaths) than if the pre-crisis trend had continued.

However, the results revealed a different picture on mortality, with overall death rates unaffected, possibly because people lead healthier lifestyles during economic difficulty.

Policy responses

‘There is a need for better empirical studies, especially on identifying mechanisms that can mitigate the adverse effects of the crisis,’ the reserachers said. 

In a linked editorial, University of Liverpool researchers say that while recessions can harm health, governments can make things worse. ‘It is critical to distinguish between health effects of recessions and the effect of policy responses to recession.' 


Parmar D et al (2016) Health outcomes during the 2008 financial crisis in Europe: systematic literature review. BMJ. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i4588

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