Economic recessions seem to reduce overall
mortality rates, but increase suicides and mental health problems
Recessions are complex events that affect
personal health and behavior via various potentially opposing mechanisms.
While recessions are known to have negative effects on mental health and
lead to an increase in suicides, it has been proven that they reduce
mortality rates. A general health policy agenda in relation to recessions
remains ambiguous due to the lack of consistency between different
individual- and country-level approaches. However, aggregate regional
patterns provide valuable information, and local social planners could use
them to design region-specific policy responses to mitigate the negative
health effects caused by recessions.
Medical care and public health interventions in
early childhood may improve human capital accumulation as well as child
Ample empirical evidence links adverse
conditions during early childhood (the period from conception to age five)
to worse health outcomes and lower academic achievement in adulthood. Can
early-life medical care and public health interventions ameliorate these
effects? Recent research suggests that both types of interventions may
benefit not only child health but also long-term educational outcomes. In
some cases, the effects of interventions may spillover to other family
members. These findings can be used to design policies that improve
long-term outcomes and reduce economic inequality.
Excessive drinking is the main cause of high
male mortality rates, but the problem can be addressed
Eastern European countries, particularly former
Soviet Union economies, traditionally have the highest rates of alcohol
consumption in the world. Consequently, they also have some of the highest
male mortality rates in the world. Regulation can be effective in
significantly decreasing excessive drinking and its related negative
effects, such as low labor productivity and high rates of mortality.
Understanding the consequences of specific regulatory measures and what
tools should be used to combat excessive alcohol consumption is essential
for designing effective policies.
Chronic diseases worsen labor market outcomes,
but firms’ hiring and retention policies can reduce them
Chronic health conditions are a global concern
and can impact labor market outcomes of those diagnosed and their
caregivers. Since the global prevalence of many chronic health conditions is
on the rise, it is important to know what firms can do to retain and hire
workers who are impacted. Firms can improve hiring by addressing biases
against potential employees with chronic health conditions. Furthermore,
firms can retain impacted workers by offering workplace flexibility such as
partial sick leave, work hour flexibility, and part-time work options.
Job insecurity adversely affects health, but
employability policies and otherwise better job quality can mitigate the
The fear of unemployment has increased around
the world in the wake of Covid-19. Research has shown that job insecurity
affects both mental and physical health, though the effects are lower when
employees are easily re-employable. The detrimental effects of job
insecurity could be partly mitigated if employers improved other aspects of
job quality that support better health. But as job insecurity is felt by
many more people than just the unemployed, the negative health effects
during recessions are multiplied and extend through the majority of the
population. This reinforces the need for effective, stabilising
macroeconomic policies, most especially at this time of pandemic.
Immigration crowds native workers out of risky
jobs and into less strenuous work, with consequent benefits to their
Public debate on immigration focuses on its
effects on wages and employment, yet the discussion typically fails to
consider the effects of immigration on working conditions that affect
workers’ health. There is growing evidence that immigrants are more likely
than natives to work in risky jobs. Recent studies show that as immigration
rises, native workers are able to work in less demanding jobs. Such market
adjustments lead to a reduction in native occupational risk and thus an
improvement in native health.
The number of prime-age males outside the labor
force is increasing worldwide, with worrying results
The global economy is full of progress
paradoxes. Improvements in technology, reducing poverty, and increasing life
expectancy coexist with persistent poverty in the poorest countries and
increasing inequality and unhappiness in many wealthy ones. A key driver of
the latter is the decline in the status and wages of low-skilled labor, with
an increasing percentage of prime-aged men (and to a lesser extent women)
simply dropping out of the labor force. The trend is starkest in the US,
though frustration in this same cohort is also prevalent in Europe, and it
is reflected in voting patterns in both contexts.
The hidden private costs of obesity: lower
earnings and a lower probability of employment
Rising obesity is a pressing global public health
problem responsible for rising health care costs and in some countries one
of the leading causes of preventable deaths. There is substantial evidence
that obese people are less likely to be employed and, when employed, earn
lower wages. There is some evidence that the lower earnings are a result of
discriminatory hiring and sorting into jobs with less customer contact.
Understanding whether obesity is associated with adverse labor market
outcomes and ascertaining the source of these outcomes are essential for
designing effective public policy.
Substance use reduces the academic performance of
A non-trivial portion of traffic fatalities
involve alcohol or illicit drugs. But does substance use—which is linked to
depression, suicide, and criminal activity—also reduce academic performance?
Recent studies suggest that the consumption of alcohol has a negative effect
on the grades of university students. Likewise, there is evidence that
marijuana use reduces the academic performance of university students.
Although students who use illicit substances are more likely to drop out of
high school than those who do not, this may reflect the influence of other,
difficult-to-measure factors at the individual level, such as
Financial incentives and changes in working
conditions are key to many broad and tailor-made programs
Do workplace programs help reduce worker
sickness absence? Many programs are based on the principle that the
employee’s decision to report an absence can be influenced if it is costly
to be absent. Firms can reduce absenteeism by implementing broad programs,
including performance pay, general improvements of working conditions, and
strengthening workers’ loyalty to the firm. Specific programs, such as
grading partial absence, seem to be effective at reducing long-term
absences. However, firms will be less inclined to implement such programs if
they can shift the financial burden to social security programs.