Current Epidemiology Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 81–91 | Cite as

Health Impacts of the Great Recession: a Critical Review

  • Claire Margerison-Zilko
  • Sidra Goldman-Mellor
  • April Falconi
  • Janelle Downing
Social Epidemiology (JM Oakes, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Social Epidemiology


The severity, sudden onset, and multipronged nature of the Great Recession (2007–2009) provided a unique opportunity to examine the health impacts of macroeconomic downturn. We comprehensively review empirical literature examining the relationship between the Recession and mental and physical health outcomes in developed nations. Overall, studies reported detrimental impacts of the Recession on health, particularly mental health. Macro- and individual-level employment- and housing-related sequelae of the Recession were associated with declining fertility and self-rated health, and increasing morbidity, psychological distress, and suicide, although traffic fatalities and population-level alcohol consumption declined. Health impacts were stronger among men and racial/ethnic minorities. Importantly, strong social safety nets in some European countries appear to have buffered those populations from negative health effects. This literature, however, still faces multiple methodological challenges, and more time may be needed to observe the Recession’s full health impact. We conclude with suggestions for future work in this field.


Great Recession Economy Mental health Mortality Fertility Health behavior 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Claire Margerison-Zilko, Sidra Goldman-Mellor, April Falconi, and Janelle Downing declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire Margerison-Zilko
    • 1
  • Sidra Goldman-Mellor
    • 2
  • April Falconi
    • 3
  • Janelle Downing
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthUniversity of California, MercedMercedUSA
  3. 3.General Internal MedicineStanford UniversityPalo AltoUSA
  4. 4.School of Public HealthUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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