An economic downturn may be better for your health than you realize.
The 2008 financial crisis in Iceland improved the health of the country’s population, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Iceland, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center and Rider University. In the aftermath of the crisis, Icelandians cut back on behaviors that put their health at risk and even boosted some behaviors that promote good health.
Between 2007 and 2009, Iceland's residents reduced their smoking, heavy drinking, indoor tanning and consumption of unhealthy foods like sugary drinks, sweets and fast food, the study found. Though Icelandians cut back on healthy behaviors like eating fruits and vegetables in the aftermath of the recession, they consumed more fish oil and were more likely to get the recommended amounts of sleep.
Iceland’s banking sector came crashing down in the span of a week amid the global financial crisis of 2008. The banks collapsed under pressure from large debts they built up attempting to expand overseas in the lead up to the crisis.
Though the findings of the Iceland study may seem counterintuitive, recessions have been shown to improve health elsewhere in the world. Economic downturns during the 20th century have been associated with a drop in mortality rates, according to Slate.
"There is a pretty broad literature on this," MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber wrote in an e-mail to Slate’s Timothy Noah. "[A]nd the consensus seems to be that recessions are good for health."
Still, there may be evidence to challenge the trend. In poorer countries, a boost in economic growth leads to a drop in mortality rates. And in the United Kingdom, the recession put managers at risk of poor health as their workloads increased, according to a recent study from Chartered Management Institute. In addition, the recession has put pressure on British bosses to come to work sick.
Stateside, the economic downturn may be hurting Americans health as patients are forced to cut back amid rising unemployment and health care costs. Nearly 60 percent of Americans put off or went without health care they needed in the previous 12 months, according to a June report from the Kaiser Foundation. Let's also not discount the toll unemployment can take on a person.
BEFORE YOU GO
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place