There has been a great deal of talk about how the economic crisis and recession have had a negative impact on the happiness of people across the United States and in many places throughout the world, and rising rates of the prescription of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications would seem to support such stories. As a matter of course, it is expected that difficult financial times will lead to higher levels of stress and create difficult situations that lead to feelings of sadness, worry, and anger, and there are doubtless many people who are struggling to recover not only financially, but mentally and emotionally, from the recession. Yet it may not be wise to characterize the health and happiness of the population as unilaterally “bad” during sour economic times. A study performed at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has uncovered the fact that Americans were actually prone to higher rates of longevity and greater overall health during past recessions, an unexpected and seemingly counter-intuitive finding that might also shed light on the status of mental health worldwide.
The study looked at death rates and causes of death across a broad spectrum of citizens during the period of 1920 to 1940, years which experienced significant financial difficulty. The researchers found that despite the commonly-held belief that health suffers during economic downfall, these medical factors were significantly more optimistic than in times of greater financial prosperity. Possible explanations that have been offered in the wake of the study include the idea that during times of growth and expansion, people are pressured to work harder and longer, and may feel over-exerted or resort to substance abuse or other destructive behaviors, all of which can have negative consequences on overall health. Changing attitudes about the effects of the recession may help further improve how people feel as they work their way towards brighter days.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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