Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Public Health. 1991 Sep;81(9):1148-52.

The health effects of economic insecurity.

Author information

School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley 94720.



Interest in the health and behavioral effects of economic insecurity appears to vary with the performance of the economy. The current recession in the United States and Western Europe and growing unemployment in Eastern Europe make it timely to analytically review the recent research concerned with the health effects of economic contraction.


The research concerned with the health and behavioral effects of economic insecurity is organized by dependent variable and method. Rules for determining which effects are supported by strong and which by weak evidence are developed and applied to the literature.


Evidence for effects on symptoms of psychological distress, seeking help for psychological distress, and nonspecific physiological illness is strong. Evidence for effects on suicide, child abuse, adverse birth outcomes, and heart disease is characterized as weak or sufficiently controversial to warrant skepticism.


The health effects of economic security are undoubtedly mediated by economic policies. Estimating the effect of policy alternatives on the incidence of various outcomes is, however, very difficult given the current state of the research. The effect of rising unemployment on health in Eastern Europe cannot, moreover, be estimated from existing research. Effects estimated from Western economies probably do not generalize to situations in which the meaning of economic insecurity is conditioned by profound social and political reforms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center