Date of Award

3-2019

Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Jeeten Giri

Keywords

business cycle, recession, health, obesity, chronic disease, macroeconomics, GDP, diabetes

Abstract

The U.S. spends about twice as much per person on healthcare, yet the disease burden remains higher in the U.S. than in comparable countries (Sawyer and Cox 2018; Sawyer and Gonzales 2017). Although health status is perceived to be an outcome of individual decision making, the business cycle also affects health. While the effect of macroeconomic shocks on health outcomes has been studied extensively, results remain inconclusive. This analysis uses longitudinal data over 30 years and panel data models to examine the effect of macroeconomic conditions on obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, congestive heart failure, and heart attack or myocardial infarction. I find that health varies countercyclically with the business cycle when both real GDP and the unemployment rate are used as measures of the business cycle: as the economy improves, the probability of disease increases and health declines. A 1% increase in real GDP increases the probability of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression by 0.264%, 0.021%, 0.102%, and 0.030%, respectively. A 1% increase in real GDP decreases vigorous exercise by 2.484 hours per week and increases alcohol consumption by 1.447 days per month. A recession year increases this countercyclical effect, perhaps because the time constraint shifts outward more than the income constraint shifts inward. My thesis fills several gaps in the existing literature, providing valuable knowledge on health determinants, the health costs of economic growth, and potential public health policy responses.

Available for download on Wednesday, November 04, 2020

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