Economist claims: "Strong economy equals more heart attacks"

If a high-fat cholesterol-laden snack doesn't trigger a heart attack, then a healthy economy just might.

The risk of a fatal heart attack rises when the U.S. economy strengthens and increases further if macroeconomic conditions remain robust over the next several years, according to a study published last month.

The death rate rises in the year the economy expands and grows further if the lower rate of joblessness is maintained, Christopher Ruhm wrote in his study.

A 1 percentage point drop in unemployment is estimated to raise mortality by 1.3 percent or 2,515 additional deaths per year from heart attacks, the study showed. The mortality rate is similar for males and females.

The 20-44 age group is at a relatively higher risk than older persons, especially if the economic upturn is sustained.

Ruhm, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, used the example of a six-month stint working in another city for what that individual sees as a great opportunity.

"During that period of time chances are you are working so much you are not exercising, haven't had a chance to join a gym, you're eating out a lot, maybe smoking more," Ruhm said by phone from North Carolina. . . . .

Is this possible? Sure. But after looking at the paper, it is primarily conjecture on what is occurring because there is just a simple regression relating unemployment and mortality rates (he tries to summarized a more mixed literature also). Income is not consistently related to mortality. This last result makes me wonder because everything else that I have seen indicates that higher income means that people live longer, and it is a better measure of growth. A measure of the distribution of income growth would also be useful.


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