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Good or bad? Assessing recessions' health effects

Is a recession good or bad for people's health?

Readers of Canadian Medicine have already had a taste of this question, in two recent articles: last month in "Economic turmoil is hurting Canadians' health: CMA" and then this month in "Maybe the recession was good for healthcare, after all". In the former, we cited a survey in which Canadians self-reported cutbacks on out-of-pocket health and nutritional spending and exercise. And in the latter, we noted a recent infusion of cash to healthcare infrastructure via federal stimulus spending.

So which is it: a recession is healthful or a recession is harmful?

Well, that very question is examined in a new review published this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by University of Washington public-health professor and emergency physician (and University of Toronto grad) Dr Stephen Bezruchka (right), who found that "contrary to what might have been expected, economic downturns during the 20th century were associated with declines in mortality rates."

Dr Bezruchka's paper is worth a full read, but I'll point out for you a few of the most interesting items in the paper:

  • The "procyclical" (positively related) relationship between recession and decreased mortality rates was less pronounced in countries like the United States and Canada which spend less than many European nations on social programs.
  • "Health care has not been found to be a major factor in producing health in populations."
  • This is a simplification of his point, but in essence he posits that higher unemployment = less money = less money to buy cigarettes and alcohol with, and less overeating. (This logic seems questionable to me, but it's something to ponder nonetheless.)
  • Work can be stressful, and unemployment can relieve pregnant women's stress. (Highly questionable, in my opinion.)
  • Is Dr Bezruchka a socialist? See especially his assertion that redistributing wealth from rich countries to poor ones would actually be of longterm benefit to the health of everyone, from countries both rich and poor, and the claim that the "current economic crisis offers an opportunity for rich countries to rethink the social purposes of their economies."
Photo: University of Washington

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4 comments:

  1. Purley Quirt (aka Sharon )10 September, 2009 9:22 AM

    Dr. Bezruchka writes well.

    The link between " redistribution of wealth" and redistribution of health" in a "population health" context could have been made more apparent.

    There is a "yoyo" motion between analyzing age-related mortalities and constants ( mental health and suicides worsen) in the context of " medical determinants of health" .......and the impact of "lifestyle" change on the fluid environment of "non-medical" determinants of health.

    In the breadth of his discourse he covers the issues profiled neatly by Hamilton and Bhatti that impact " population" health........ however he fails to demonstrate how the traditional performance indicators for "medical health" have equivalent data mining comparables , capacity and value for "non-medical " determinants.

    Therefore the assumption that redistribution of wealth means redistribution of health.... is actually unable to be fully scientifically measured.... leaving only " mortality rates" as the strongest indicator to " muse" ( but not to measure)

    However popular the thrust is for academics to lead the way in the global movement to use " health" as the lead in creating the new "civil society" approach to wealth distribution for IMF funds.........

    However frustrated traditional "health" managers/ practitioners/ professors are at the massive broadening that has occurred in their field since"non-medical" determinants of health are center stage.........

    However reluctant the practitioners are to package their performance so indicators for "business cycles" can be properly matched........

    However the global financial community redefines the "benefits pool" and the " cost pool".........

    you can be sure of two things...........

    "tragedy of the common " WILL occur....

    as monopolies become oligopolies "cartel theory " WILL apply.......

    Let us now see a paper on how wealth distribution "within" the most protected species in the world ( health care workers) .......can positively balance the most unprotected species in the world ( the patient/ client/ individual )

    Hey... I just hope the cartel is P3 ...which will result in breaking the hegemonious power of the private partner in "medical" health care ;)

    Delete
  2. Medical Joke10 September, 2009 10:46 AM

    A calorie restricted diet may prolong life, but does this mean that we should prescribe recessions? I wouldn't want to die of malnutrition, I'd rather starve first!

    Delete
  3. Purley Quirt (aka Sharon)17 September, 2009 8:53 AM

    MJ

    ...... choosing the right "vowel" makes a world of difference

    ...is a false dichotomy a "preying" or "praying" mantis ( as in prophet, seer)?

    Delete
  4. Kamagra12 April, 2012 6:57 AM

    This is very great thing you have shared with us. Now I found enough resources by your tips about this issue, Thank you.

    Delete
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