JAMA Forum: The economy and health

It’s important to recognize that the financial effects of a shrinking or growing economy—employment and reduced income—can accrue to different people than its health effects. This is demonstrated in an intriguing study by Ann Stevens, PhD, Douglas Miller, PhD, Marianne Page, PhD, and Mateusz Filipski, PhD. They found that increases in mortality during strong economic conditions are concentrated among the elderly, particularly older women living in nursing homes. One mechanism for this phenomenon is that employment levels in skilled nursing facilities—particularly for nursing staff—go down when the unemployment rate falls. This might occur because nurses who would otherwise work in those facilities are able to find better jobs elsewhere, or their other household members are able to gain employment. Moreover, it may be the case that during economic expansions, the nursing staff that facilities are able to retain are of lower quality. Since quality is positively correlated with nursing home staff levels, this connection between employment rates and nursing home mortality is plausible.

That’s from my latest on the JAMA Forum. Go read the rest!


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