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Bad times make you live longer

Those who can find a silver lining in any storm cloud can celebrate this upside to a down economy.

By Giselle Smith Feb 29, 2012 5:03PM

When the philosopher Friedrich Neitzsche said, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger," he certainly wasn't talking about high unemployment, a depressed housing market and plummeting stock values. (And when Kelly Clarkson sang "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," she wasn't either.) But it seems that one upside of a down economy is that people live longer.


Sure, it sounds counterintuitive -- wouldn't the stress alone shorten life expectancies? -- but preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (.pdf file) suggests that's not the case. 


The age-adjusted death rate in the U.S. actually decreased by 2% between 2007 and 2010, and life expectancy at birth increased 0.8 years, from 77.9 years in 2007 to 78.7 years in 2010. Between 2004 and 2007, when the economy was stronger, it increased by only 0.4 years nationwide, Peter Orszag wrote for Bloomberg. (Post continues below.)

Furthermore, when you break out the statistics by state, life expectancy has actually increased more in those states that have had higher rates of unemployment, such as Michigan and Illinois, whereas states with the smallest increase in unemployment have seen their death rates rise, Bloomberg said.


History backs the research

Before you assume that the data have nothing to do with the economy, consider this: Life expectancy also rose during the Great Depression, according to University of Michigan research (.pdf file) by José A. Tapia Granados and Ana V. Diez Roux.


"The evolution of population health during the years 1920-1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions," they conclude.


Furthermore, research (.pdf file) by economists from the University of California-Davis shows that an increase of 1% in a state's unemployment rate corresponds to a 0.54% decline in that state's death rates.


How can this be true?

Economist Christopher Ruhm of the University of Virginia has done a number of studies on the ways that a recession is good for one's health (or why, as one of his papers is titled "A Healthy Economy Can Break Your Heart").


His research indicates that suicide rates increase during economic downturns, but deaths from other causes, such as traffic fatalities and heart attacks, actually decrease. This may be because when fewer people are driving to work, there is less air pollution and traffic, Bloomberg says, adding that Ruhm also found declining rates of smoking and obesity.


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Mar 1, 2012 9:29AM
Tell that to my brother and sister...both dead. Brother lost job, got depressed and hung himself in our garage. A year later, my sister died in her sleep from complications due to an untreated medical condition, because she had no insurance. If you don't have kids, cancer, or are elderly you DO NOT qualify for govt assistance...foodstamps, medicaid/medicare or welfare of any there's no friggin "safety net" and both my mom and myself have a life expectancy less than a yr due to no jobs and medical conditions...I'm a college graduate so it's not because I'm stupid white trash. The economy just sucks and I think only rich people are the ones that live longer because they buy less cheeseburgers, motorcycles, drinks at bars and other death dealing items when the economy is down.
Mar 1, 2012 9:34AM

More fodder for the masses to get them to be distracted in the real issues. No matter what economic shape we're in the powers that be always show us how much better off we are.


Brainwashing, pure and simple.

Mar 1, 2012 1:30AM
Bullcrap, if this is the case I'm never going to die....
Mar 1, 2012 1:43AM
I feel much better. Thank you. My problems are only going to last longer now.
Mar 1, 2012 2:52PM

Maybe the reason there are less deaths during an economic downturn, is because less people are going to work every day... They have more time for socializing... going to the park, going for a walk, spending time with friends and family, playing games, playing with a pet...


Maybe the headline should read... Is Your Job Killing You?

Mar 1, 2012 10:21AM

Adversity strengthens, ease weakens. I've been telling you this for many years.

The strange thing is that the author thinks it's counter-intuitive. Isn't it obvious that lack of stress causes bone loss, muscle loss, range of motion loss, loss of mental acuity and obesity? Returning residents of the space station are practically bedridden. What does you more good, lying on the couch or a walk in the park, watching tv or working a crossword puzzle?

Use it or lose it.

Feb 29, 2012 10:51PM
You have it all wrong. It's not MSNBC, it's PMSNBC !
Mar 1, 2012 7:37AM

...with this logic then I should live to see 12-21-2012...that's the day my retirement kicks in.


Always been a day late and a dollar short!

Feb 29, 2012 10:08PM
if that's true I'd live past forever but let's get real smucks. if that was true then the dark ages wouldn't have had so many dying.
Mar 1, 2012 4:25PM
Its' not that you're living longer in hard times. It just feels longer.
Mar 1, 2012 8:38AM
There's a wonder, no job = longer life. Who'd-a thunk.
Mar 1, 2012 9:09AM

Although I'd counter-argue that the increased stress from a 'down economy' is responsible for a higher mortality rate in the short term (suicide, heart attacks, stroke), there is a lot of medical evidence to support the idea that eating less garbage and working a bit harder will in fact increase life expectantcy.Light bulb


Unfortunately, the old school saying that 'hard work is it's own reward' has yet to take root in generation X (or Y for that matter). Instead, these kids have and will opt to take the easiest way out of everything, (including picking less physically demanding jobs) but very few will ever make up for that  through any type of 'genuine' physical activity. The end result of which is the deterioration of physical and mental health. Big surprise there.Eye-rolling


But then again, I'd also expect to see less people sticking to a healthy diet durring a recession because healthier foods cost more- which should have an opposite effect. 

Mar 1, 2012 3:59PM
Is this article trying to tell us to vote for Obama so we'll have more bad times ahead and can live longer and enjoy our lives less?
Mar 1, 2012 3:08PM
i thought times like these cause more people to commit suicide?

Mar 1, 2012 8:24AM
Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Mar 1, 2012 1:15PM

"Bad times make you live longer"

Figures...just my luck.  Reminds me of a line from...which Woody Allen movie was it, Annie Hall? Something like "The food is just terrible here...and such small portions!". Somehow, that doesn't seem quite as bad as heaping portions of the same pig-slop.

I think I need more coffee, please.

Mar 1, 2012 12:45AM
The recent changes in removing transfats from the American diet likely have more to do with the change in longevity than any other factor. Other changes are that most dentist now do not put slow release poison in our teeth they call silver fillings and water utilities are no longer adding poison to the water system in the name of prevention of tooth decay.
Mar 1, 2012 5:51PM

Sounds like the data supports it.

The WW II generation is just clocking mile, or is it years, like crazy. Here, as well as in Europe and Japan. The good news is that when they fade, the easy life generations, the boomers, the XYZ's, etc.  will not put such a burden on the social security system.


 We can breath again, of course, not for too long 


Mar 1, 2012 1:43PM
Bhill, if you read the entire article it didn't include suicide. Sorry foer your family loss.
Mar 1, 2012 2:52PM

TheJeffer: How come there isn't a forum like this on Newsmax or Fox? Maybe it's because most facts don't support the consrvative narrative?

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