Recessions can be good for your health. Recessions can be bad for your health. Apparently it depends on who you are.
Recessions seem to decrease the death rate among younger folks. This has been attributed mainly to a decrease in automobile fatalities (see Christopher Ruhm’s work). The thought is that during a recession there are fewer cars on the road, so folks are less likely to get into an automobile accident.
Oddly, recessions also seem to decrease the death rate among older folks. Recent work on this finding (by Doug Miller and company) suggests that in a recession the quality of people working home health care jobs decreases the mortality of older peeps.
However, recessions aren’t all good. A new paper by Courtney Coile, Phil Levine, and Robin McKnight finds a delayed penalty to hitting a recession (and losing your job) in your late 50s. That’s the age when it’s hard to get a new job (because of things like age discrimination), but you were planning on several more years of highly paid (compared to your earlier years) work before hitting retirement, or at least before hitting the early social security claiming age of 62. It is a difficult time to have to start spending down instead of bulking up.
Worse than that is the loss of health insurance in the years before Medicare eligibility. The authors suggest that this lack of health insurance is driving the negative results that they find.
How negative? They find that a worker who loses hir job at 58 in a recession lives 3 fewer years than a comparable worker who does not lose hir job.
What can you do, besides marrying someone who can cover you with hir health insurance? Well… probably not much. You can save a lot while you’re young. You can create side incomes. You can build professional networks. And you can support pushes for affordable universal health care coverage in your state.
Are you protecting yourself from job-loss in your 50s or beyond? If so, how?