The Great Recession took a definite economic toll on Americans, but it also took a toll on their health.
A UCLA-led study, published ahead of print March 12, 2018, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the Great Recession, which began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, increased patients’ cardiovascular risk factors, including increased blood pressure and glucose levels.
“We need to pay attention to such health risks in addition to our usual concerns about providing financial support for those impacted by economic downturns,” says lead study author Teresa Seeman, PhD, professor of medicine and epidemiology, and co-principal investigator, Diversity Program Consortium Coordination & Evaluation Center, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The findings point to the significant and negative health impacts of such economic recessions.”
Seeman and colleagues studied data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) from 2000 to 2012. They looked at changes in blood pressure and glucose data from 2000 through 2008 (before the Recession) and compared those changes to changes from 2008 to 2012 (from before to after the Recession) for the 4,600 participants, aged 45 to 84 years when the study was initiated in 2000. Using the information from before the Recession (2000 to 2008), the researchers were able to calculate changes in blood pressure and glucose that would have been expected to occur naturally with age if the Recession had not occurred, and compared that information to the changes that were actually observed at the end of the Recession, according to the authors.
“Importantly, the data allowed us to control out the usual age increases and to estimate the changes that are independent of the usual increases we see with time/age,” Seeman says.
“The findings also indicated that specific subgroups in the population showed the largest increases—these were groups most seriously impacted by the Recession—they were younger adults, still in the labor force and at risk to lose a job, and older, richer homeowners—those likely invested in the stock market and who also saw their homes lose significant value,” she says.
“Be concerned about health risks that may change/increase as a function of economic recessions—and especially for groups that may be most significantly impacted by the economic conditions at that time,” Seeman says.