Impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on the health of Canadians: repeated cross-sectional analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey, 2007–2013

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Abstract

Background

Despite a clear impact on the Canadian economy, little is known about the subsequent health impacts of the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC) in this country. This study fills this gap in knowledge by conducting a repeated cross-sectional analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS).

Methods

Data from 7 cycles (2007–2013) of the CCHS were combined to form a large data set representative of the Canadian working-age population (15–64 years) residing in 1 of 10 provinces. A logistic regression model was used to determine whether exposure to various periods of the GFC resulted in increased odds of reporting poor mental health. Exposure was categorised into 4 periods based on political and economic indicators, as follows: precrisis period (baseline), initial crisis period, stimulus period and austerity period. Other outcomes investigated included: anxiety disorders (AD), mood disorders (MD), poor physical health and health-related behaviours (heavy alcohol drinking (HAD) and decreased fruit/vegetable consumption (FVC)).

Results

A significant increased odds of reporting poor mental health was observed during the austerity period compared with the precrisis period (OR=1.26 (1.16 to 1.32)); findings remain significant when adjusted for sex, marital status and education. Exposure to the austerity period was also significantly associated with increased odds of reporting AD, MD, HAD and decreased odds of FVC. No significant associations were observed for the poor self-perceived physical health variable.

Conclusions

Statistically significant associations were observed between several negative health outcomes and the austerity period when compared with the precrisis period. Austerity has been linked to worsening health in other studies and represents an example of how the policy response can have greater detrimental impact on health than the financial crisis itself.

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