Why is there so much controversy regarding the population health impact of the great recession? Reflections on three case studies

Amaia Bacigalupe, Faraz Vahid Shahidi, Carles Muntaner, Unai Martín, Carme Borrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, public health scholars have grown increasingly interested in studying the health consequences of macroeconomic change. Reflecting existing debates on the nature of this relationship, research on the effects of the recent economic crisis has sparked considerable controversy. On the one hand there is evidence to support the notion that macroeconomic downturns are associated with positive health outcomes. On the other hand, a growing number of studies warn that the current economic crisis can be expected to pose serious problems for the public's health. This article contributes to this debate through a review of recent evidence from three case studies: Iceland, Spain, and Greece. It shows that the economic crisis has negatively impacted some population health indicators (e.g., mental health) in all three countries, but especially in Greece. Available evidence defies deterministic conclusions, including increasingly "conventional" claims about economic downturns improving life expectancy and reducing mortality. While our results echo previous research in finding that the relationship between economic crises and population health is complex, they also indicate that this complexity is not arbitrary. On the contrary, changing social and political contexts provide meaningful, if partial, explanations for the perplexing nature of recent empirical findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-35
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct 1

Keywords

  • Economic crisis
  • Economic recession
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Population health
  • Spain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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