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Prev Med. 2014 Jul;64:54-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.03.028. Epub 2014 Apr 6.

Assessing the short term health impact of the Great Recession in the European Union: a cross-country panel analysis.

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Health Economics Group, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Health Economics Group, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, Cambridge, UK. Electronic address:



There are great concerns and some initial country-specific, descriptive evidence about potential adverse health consequences of the recent Great Recession.


Using data for 23 European Union countries we examine the short-term impact of macroeconomic decline during the Great Recession on a range of health and health behaviour indicators. We also examine whether the effect differed between countries according to the level of social protection provided.


Overall, during the recent recession, an increase of one percentage point in the standardised unemployment rate has been associated with a statistically significant decrease in the following mortality rates: all-cause-mortality (3.4%), cardiovascular diseases (3.7%), cirrhosis- and chronic liver disease-related mortality (9.2%), motor vehicle accident-related mortality (11.5%), parasitic infection-related mortality (4.1%), but an increase in the suicide rate (34.1%). In general, the effects were more marked in countries with lower levels of social protection, compared to those with higher levels.


An increase in the unemployment rate during the Great Recession has had a beneficial health effect on average across EU countries, except for suicide mortality. Social protection expenditures appear to help countries "smooth" the health response to a recession, limiting health damage but also forgoing potential health gains that could otherwise result.


Cross-country panel analysis; Europe; Recession; Socioeconomic determinants

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