News Stories

A Recession Can be Healthy

for people & for the planet - It's not over yet and won't be until more jobs are available! But while economic turndowns are miserable for the mind, they are not necessarily bad for the body. Scientists say that a recession may also be healthy for our PLANET.

The Great Depression had a silver lining: During that hard time, US life expectancy actually increased by almost 6 years, from a little over age 57 to over age 63 in 1932. The increase occurred for both men and women, and for whites and non-whites.

Researcher Tapia Granados says, "Most people assume that periods of high unemployment are harmful to health." Some possible explanations are that "working conditions are very different during expansions and recessions. During expansions, firms are very busy, and they typically demand a lot of effort from employees, who are required to work a lot of overtime, and to work at a fast pace. This can create stress, which is associated with more drinking and smoking.

"Also, new workers may be hired who are inexperienced, so injuries are likely to be more common. And people who are working a lot may also sleep less which is known to have implications for health. Other health-related behaviors such as diet may also change for the worse during expansions."

In recessions, there is less work to do, so employees can work at a slower pace. There is more time to sleep, and because people have less money, they are less likely to spend as much on alcohol and tobacco.

On BBC News, Richard Black reports that the global recession also gives us a chance to control global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions will fall by 3% this year, due to a slowdown in manufacturing, and it could be 2020 before industry reaches the level it was at before the economic turndown, and by that time, we may have discovered new energy sources. Black quotes environmentalist Nobuo Tanaka as saying, "The message is simple and stark: if the world continues on the basis of today's energy and climate policies, the consequences of climate change will be severe."

So do we have to be poor to be healthy humans living on a healthy planet? Not if we learn the lessons we need to from our current economic conditions!

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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