Death rates higher during boom times

Life can be very difficult during tough financial times. But a surprising new study in the Netherlands, published in BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that middle-aged and older adults have higher death rates during a booming economy, rather than a recession.

Researchers from the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Aging and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands analyzed the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of 19 developed countries as well as the number of deaths of middle-aged and older people during the same time period. Middle-aged people were categorized as ages 40 to 44 and older people were categorized as ages 70 to 74. The group found that when economies were growing, death rates increased and when economies were falling, death rates decreased.

The cause for this relationship, however, is not clear. Researchers speculate that during unemployment in a recession, people consume less alcohol which may result in fewer traffic accidents.  However, they also tend to eat more junk food and suicide rates rise.  One other possible factor that may drive up death rates during good times is job-related stress, the researchers speculated.

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