How recessions save lives

Here's one of the few good things about recessions.

There's not a lot of good that comes out of a recession. Recessions mean job loss, added pressure on those who keep their jobs, and thinner wallets all around. They're stressful times.

But there's something positive about recessions: Fewer people die.

As Casey Mulligan points out at the New York Times, while suicide and binge drinking rise during a recession, the mortality rate actually rises as the economy improves. It might seem counterintuitive, but here's why:

Even if we could be sure that austerity and related fiscal policies create recessions, it would be premature to conclude that they literally kill people.  Industrial and construction accidents are more common in economic expansions, and less common in recessions because those industries’ activities follow the business cycle.  Overtime hours may be more dangerous than average, and overtime is more common at the peak of the business cycle.  Moreover, the share of people working in construction – one of the most hazardous industries – increases during expansions and falls during recessions.

Highway accidents also follow the business cycle because more vehicles are on the road during economic expansions, and fewer on the road during recessions.

In fact, one researcher found that all causes of death, with the exception of suicide, happened less frequently during a recession.

More evidence, I guess, to the saying "money doesn't buy happiness." Or just a fascinating study on how the economy impacts our lives.

Recessions Save Lives [New York Times]

Photo: Flickr/Sunfrog1

This post was originally published on


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