Sunlight and Protection Against Influenza

71 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2018

See all articles by David Slusky

David Slusky

University of Kansas; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Richard J. Zeckhauser

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2018

Abstract

Recent medical literature suggests that vitamin D supplementation protects against acute respiratory tract infection. Humans exposed to sunlight produce vitamin D directly. This paper investigates how differences in sunlight, as measured over several years across states and during the same calendar week, affect influenza incidence. We find that sunlight strongly protects against getting influenza. This relationship is driven almost entirely by the severe H1N1 epidemic in fall 2009. A 10% increase in relative sunlight decreases the influenza index in September or October by 1.1 points on a 10-point scale. A second, complementary study employs a separate data set to study flu incidence in counties in New York State. The results are strongly in accord.

Suggested Citation

Slusky, David and Zeckhauser, Richard J., Sunlight and Protection Against Influenza (February 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24340, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3127169

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