The good news is the US economy is finally starting to recover. The bad news is, according to a new study, this may lead to an increased death rate among the elderly.
Though it may not be common knowledge, researchers already knew that economic upturns lead to increased death rates among the middle aged. There are several theories as to why. With more people commuting to work, traffic accidents increase. Workers are also more stressed and have less time to be healthy and exercise. Plus, more spending money leads to overindulgence in unhealthy foods and alcoholic beverages.
But none of these theories adequately explain why the death rate among the elderly, most of whom are retired, also increases. Researchers speculate that it may be due to younger relatives having less time caring for their elderly loved ones. Or increased air pollution caused by increased commuting. Or the elderly themselves are in the same overindulgent mood their younger counterparts are in, even though they aren’t currently employed.
Whatever the case may be, the death rate increases by about 0.36% among elderly men and slightly less among elderly women. This may not be as significant a factor as, say, smoking but researchers such as University of Virginia professor Christopher Ruhm consider it to be “non-trivial” and worthy of further research.
Even though an economic upturn may cause medical harm in the short term, in the long term it’s highly beneficial. People living in a strong economy have more money to spend on health care and will ultimately lead longer, healthier lives.