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Health Impacts of the Great Recession: a Critical Review

Abstract

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.

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References

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Correspondence to Claire Margerison-Zilko.

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

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Margerison-Zilko, C., Goldman-Mellor, S., Falconi, A. et al. Health Impacts of the Great Recession: a Critical Review. Curr Epidemiol Rep 3, 81–91 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40471-016-0068-6

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Keywords

  • Great Recession
  • Economy
  • Mental health
  • Mortality
  • Fertility
  • Health behavior