Deaths Rise in Good Economic Times: Evidence from the OECD

26 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2002 Last revised: 28 Jul 2021

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

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Date Written: December 2002

Abstract

This study uses aggregate data for 23 OECD countries over the 1960-1997 period to examine the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and fatalities. The main finding is that total mortality and deaths from several common causes increase when labor markets strengthen. For instance, controlling for year effects, location fixed effects, country-specific time trends and demographic characteristics, a one percentage point decrease in the national unemployment rate is associated with a 0.4 percent rise in total mortality and 0.4, 1.1, 1.8, 2.1 and 0.8 percent increases in deaths from cardiovascular disease, influenza/pneumonia, liver disease, motor vehicle fatalities and other accidents. These results are consistent with the findings of other recent research and cast doubt on the hypothesis that economic downturns have negative effects on physical health.

Suggested Citation

Gerdtham, Ulf and Ruhm, Christopher J., Deaths Rise in Good Economic Times: Evidence from the OECD (December 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9357, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=359842

Ulf Gerdtham

Lund University - Faculty of Medicine ( email )

Box 117
SE-221 00 Lund
Sweden

Christopher J. Ruhm (Contact Author)

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

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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