Middle-aged and older adults have a higher likelihood of dying during times of economic expansion than when the economy is shrinking, according to a study published on October 7 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The researchers examined gross domestic product in 19 developed countries against the death rates of citizens between 40 and 44 and 70 to 74 years old. After taking into account more than 50 years of data, the study concluded that for every 1-percent increase in GDP, death rates rose nearly .4 percent for the men in each age group, respectively. Mortality rates for women was also found to increase during economic booms, but to a lesser degree.
A growing economy means higher workplace stress and more traffic accidents, two reasons that death rates increase during booms. People with jobs also tend to eat poorly and drink more when GDP is growing, according to the study.
But researchers are more uncertain about what causes mortality rates to rise among older, retired people during periods of economic growth. One possible explanation that's cited in the study is that higher employment means fewer people
staying at home to take care of older loved ones, but the study's author notes that further research is needed to substantiate this claim.
This isn't the first study to claim that a strong economy may be have detrimental effects on health. In 2010, a study published in the Journal of Political Economy said that more children would fall ill and die during sudden economic booms in Colombia. The researchers postulate that as the nation's economy grows, parents will work more and spend less time taking care of their children.