Population health and the economy: Mortality and the Great Recession in Europe
We analyze the evolution of mortality-based health indicators in 27 European countries before and after the start of the Great Recession. We find that in the countries where the crisis has been particularly severe, mortality reductions in 2007–2010 were considerably bigger than in 2004–2007. Panel models adjusted for space-invariant and time-invariant factors show that an increase of 1 percentage point in the national unemployment rate is associated with a reduction of 0.5% (p < .001) in the rate of age-adjusted mortality. The pattern of mortality oscillating procyclically is found for total and sex-specific mortality, cause-specific mortality due to major causes of death, and mortality for ages 30–44 and 75 and over, but not for ages 0–14. Suicides appear increasing when the economy decelerates—countercyclically—but the evidence is weak. Results are robust to using different weights in the regression, applying nonlinear methods for detrending, expanding the sample, and using as business cycle indicator gross domestic product per capita or employment-to-population ratios rather than the unemployment rate. We conclude that in the European experience of the past 20 years, recessions, on average, have beneficial short-term effects on mortality of the adult population.