Drive less, live longer


Part of our story on the Joy of Frugality in the latest issue of the magazine looks at the question of whether economic downturns can actually be good for your health. Several researchers, including Christopher Ruhm at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, have dug into the numbers. And they’ve found that yes, recessions (in the short term at least) can make you live longer.

For instance, when unemployment rises, there are fewer cars and trucks on the road, hence less smog, and more important, a decrease in traffic fatalities.

Down in California they’re seeing a dramatic drop off in highway usage. At first, economists throught it was just a result of high gasoline prices, but now the realization is setting in that the slowing economy is behind the decline in highway use. Still no word yet on whether this has cut the number of accidents, but if the research is any indication, that’s a likely result.

H/T Paul Kedrosky


Drive less, live longer

  1. There’s a major flaw in the conclusion that a recession has health benefits because it overlooks the negative impacts to health such as;

    –good nutrition is expensive so diets will suffer.
    –recessions tend to increase crime levels.
    –less money will be spent on health maintenance (ie. few dentist appointments).
    –recessions increase stress levels in those affected by it.

    These are just a couple off the top of my head but I’m sure there are more.

  2. Robert, you raise a really interesting question about the link between recessions and crime rates. There’s been much debate recently about how strong that link is (which we didn’t have space to delve into in our story). As the New York Times reported recently: “Interviews with criminologists, economists and police commanders, in New York and around the nation, suggest that in the end the correlation between fiscal calamity and rising crime may be a nuanced equation, as it was in the Great Depression, when crime rates dropped from their upswings during Prohibition.”
    No doubt, this will be something to watch over the next year or so.

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