A falling unemployment rate is typically good news, but some economists point to a glaring downside. When the jobless rate falls, the death rate goes up.
New research published this week attempts to explain what happens.
In a strong economy, people tend to migrate away from certain jobs, say a group of professors and scholars from the University of California, Davis in a research brief published this week.
Among those jobs that suddenly become less popular? Physicians, nurses and aides at care facilities for the elderly.
In other words, when hiring picks up, it's good for the economy but bad for the residents of nursing homes. These facilities can find themselves suddenly understaffed -- and the mortality rate for people age 65 and older takes a sharp jump.
In 2006, the authors observe, the country's unemployment rate fell by one point -- and there were 6,700 more deaths that year, three-quarters of which occurred among the 65-and-up population.
The authors' premise -- that death rates go up when joblessness goes down -- isn't one that's universally accepted. Other studies have drawn the opposite conclusion, finding a direct correlation between unemployment, health troubles and mortality.
But few would dispute that U.S. nursing homes are in a precarious position, especially where staffing issues are concerned. A decade ago, a study from the Department of Health and Human Services found that as many as 97 percent of nursing homes in America didn't have enough workers to provide the baseline level of care.
And just last year, another report from a team at the University of Pittsburgh found that widespread understaffing is likely responsible for the prevalence of infectious diseases in nursing homes, which cause almost 400,000 deaths every year.
Which cities could be at the greatest risk? Check out the most rapidly-aging cities below
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