Healthy Recession

David Prychitko reports on a U Mich study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

Population health did not decline and indeed generally improved during the 4 years of the Great Depression, 1930–1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years in males, females, whites, and nonwhites.

I’m a bit skeptical about this. Prychitko mentions that there could be a lag effect, that ill health effects didn’t show up until after the scope of the study. I think this is probably right. After all, health statistics aren’t health statistics measured by hospital visits?

During a recession, particularly during the Great Depression before widespread health insurance coverage, even the very sick probably avoided hospital visits.
I wonder how many diseases went undiagnosed until after the depression was over, just because people couldn’t afford the doctors visits?
This would have two affects: give the appearance that there is less illness during the depression and give the appearance that health declined significantly after the Depression. This would make the population look even healthier during the bad economic times by comparison.

I’m not ruling out the findings of the study, of course, but I would appreciate more skepticism on the matter.


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