Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1017–1026 | Cite as

Health and health behaviors during the great recession: a note on drinking, smoking, obesity, and physical activity

  • Erdal TekinEmail author
  • Chandler McClellan
  • Karen Jean Minyard


Previous studies have shown that recessions are typically associated with better health and health behaviors. With the exception of a few recent studies however, these studies focus on sample periods that end prior to the Great Recession. The few exceptions that extend the analysis period beyond the Great Recession suggest that the pro-cyclical relationship between macroeconomic conditions and mortality obtained in earlier studies might have weakened over time. In this paper, we revisited the relationship between state unemployment rate and a large set of outcomes of health and health behaviors using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) between 1990 and 2014. Overall, our results suggest that state unemployment rate is weakly related to both health and health behaviors as our estimates are too small to have any meaningful implications, although they are largely imprecisely estimated. Finally, we tested whether the Great Recession played a significant role in influencing the pattern in the relationship between unemployment rate and health and health behaviors. Our results from this analysis do not reveal any measurable recession effect, although the estimates are again largely imprecise.


BRFSS Health Recession Unemployment Smoking Obesity 

JEL Classification

E32 I10 I12 I14 I15 



Erdal Tekin gratefully acknowledges support from the Gary and Stacey Jacobs Fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. Ruhm, C. J. (2005). Healthy living in hard times. Journal of Health Economics, 24(2), 341–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ruhm, C. J. (2015). Recessions, healthy no more? Journal of Health Economics, 42, 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ruhm, C. J. (2016). Health effects of economic crises. Health Economics, 25(S2), 6–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ólafsdóttir, T., & Ásgeirsdóttir, T. L. (2015). Gender differences in drinking behavior during an economic collapse: Evidence from Iceland. Review of Economics of the Household, 13(4), 975–1001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Tekin, E., McClellan, C. & Minyard, K. J. (2013). Health and health behaviors during the worst of times. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 19234.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erdal Tekin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chandler McClellan
    • 1
  • Karen Jean Minyard
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public AffairsAmerican University, IZA and NBERWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public Management and Policy and Georgia Health Policy Center, Andrew Young Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations