Posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I. A new National Bureau of Economic Research paper suggests that increases in unemployment lead to a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption, with potentially long-lived effects on workers’ health.
“Among those who are predicted to be at the highest risk of unemployment, a one percentage point increase in the resident’s state unemployment rate is associated with a 2% to 4% reduction in the frequency of fruits and vegetable consumption, and an 8% reduction in the consumption of salad,” economists Dhaval Dave of Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., and Inas Rashad Kelly of Queens College in Flushing, N.Y, said.
The research relies on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey in which 350,000 Americans are interviewed each year, and compares communities with different unemployment rates between 1990 and 2007, before the last recession began. “Since December of 2007,” they note, “the national unemployment rate doubled from 5% to 10% over the following two years.” The economists say this implies that the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption would decline by between 10% and 20%, all else equal, among “the most vulnerable populations such as low-educated individuals.”
Other research yields different results about the impact of unemployment on health and behavior. Another recent NBER study, by Xin Xu and Robert Kaestner, finds that the more hours people work and the higher their wages, they more cigarettes they smoke. Work by Christopher Ruhm concludes that recessions are good for one’s health; he finds that during good times, there are more fatal auto accidents and more deaths from disease –- though fewer suicides. However, research by Daniel Sullivan and Till von Wachter finds that mortality rates in the year following a layoff among high-seniority male workers increases sharply.