The Great Recession wiped out the real estate holdings and retirement accounts of untold Americans during the late 2000s — and, according to new research, the stress associated with the downturn may have also led to an uptick in endemic heart disease.
In a new paper, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at UCLA looked at the blood pressure and glucose of 4,600 U.S. adults during the years spanning 2000 and 2012. When the recession kicked in, the researchers found, both figures, which are also both major contributors to heart disease, spiked.
More striking still, the most dire increases were seen in the groups hit hardest by the recession: adults still in the labor force and older homeowners. It’s long been known that psychological stress can lead to a cross section of physical symptoms, but the UCLA research offers strong evidence that an economic crisis can have specific public health implications.
The link between the health of the economy and the health of the people who participate in it is longstanding and bidirectional: the poor or newly uninsured are less likely to seek out robust medical treatment, but the stress of a crashing economy can also cause ill health among previously healthy people.
When the USSR dissolved and the economy in Russia tanked, for instance, the life expectancy of men in Moscow fell by eight entire years in a phenomenon that experts termed a “mortality crisis.”