August 25, 2008

In The News: Recession & Health

Today's Los Angeles Times features an article suggesting that recession may lead to better health, due to people cutting down on risky health behaviors.

Although "medical science has accumulated a solid body of research showing that poverty and unemployment lead to higher rates of obesity and more cases of diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, [and] some cancers," recent economic research is concluding differently.

"This is about the macro picture, the health of entire societies. And their statistics show that as economics worsen, traffic accidents go down, as do industrial accidents, obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking. Population-wide, even deaths from heart disease go down during recessions."

I'm not very convinced -- at least not as far as the United States is concerned.

Although healthy eating can be financially viable, we are talking about a culture where instant access to an inexpensive meal often trumps its nutritional value. Consequently, picking up KFC on the way home or a $1 donut for breakfast is often chosen over spending 10 or 15 minutes in the kitchen whipping something up.

It also doesn't help that at many fast food establishments, an additional 50 or 75 cents can increase a meal by several hundred calories.

My particular concern is that economic recessions -- which include higher unemployment rates -- can be emotionally taxing.

And, as is the case with finances, eating is very much tied to emotions.

The formula is rather simple in my mind -- the worse you feel, the worse you eat. And the worse you eat, the worse you feel.

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