Deaths Rise in Good Economic Times: Evidence from the OECD

Posted: 29 Nov 2006

See all articles by Ulf Gerdtham

Ulf Gerdtham

Lund University - Faculty of Medicine

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Abstract

This study uses aggregate data for 23 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries over the 1960-1997 period to examine the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and deaths. The main finding is that total mortality and deaths from several common causes rise when labor markets strengthen. For instance, controlling for year effects, location fixed-effects (FE), country-specific time trends and demographic characteristics, a 1% point decrease in the national unemployment rate is associated with growth of 0.4% in total mortality and the following increases in cause-specific mortality: 0.4% for cardiovascular disease, 1.1% for influenza/pneumonia, 1.8% for liver disease, 2.1% for motor vehicle deaths, and 0.8% for other accidents. These effects are particularly pronounced for countries with weak social insurance systems, as proxied by public social expenditure as a share of GDP. The findings are consistent with evidence provided by other recent research and cast doubt on the hypothesis that economic downturns have negative effects on physical health.

Keywords: Business cycles, Mortality, Health

JEL Classification: E32, I12

Suggested Citation

Gerdtham, Ulf and Ruhm, Christopher J., Deaths Rise in Good Economic Times: Evidence from the OECD. Economics & Human Biology, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 298-319, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=947871

Ulf Gerdtham (Contact Author)

Lund University - Faculty of Medicine ( email )

Box 117
SE-221 00 Lund
Sweden

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://batten.virginia.edu/cruhm.html

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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