Silver Lining of The Great Depression: Gains in Life Expectancy9 years ago
Posted on Oct 02, 2009, 6 a.m.
New study by University of Michigan (USA) researchers reveals that life expectancy rose by 6.2 years during the harsh economic times of the 1930s.
Noting their findings as “strong and counterintuitive,” Jose A. Tapia Granados, from University of Michigan (USA), and colleagues have found that during the Great Depression, life expectancy rose, from 57.1 years in 1929 to stand at 63.3 years in 1932. The increase was seen for both men and women, and for whites and non-whites. The team reviewed historical life expectancy and mortality data to examine associations between economic growth and population health for 1920 to 1940. They found that while population health generally improved during the four years of the Great Depression and during recessions in 1921 and 1938, mortality increased and life expectancy declined during periods of strong economic expansion, such as 1923, 1926, 1929, and 1936-1937. Noting “a significant negative effect of economic expansions on health gains,” the researchers conclude that: “The evolution of population health during the years 1920–1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions.”