The Upside of an Economic Downturn?
Not that anyone would wish economic hardship on anybody, but can the case be made that there are in fact health benefits to an economic downturn? Well, the conclusion is not as simple as you might think, and the answers are surprisingly mixed. In a recent article in the New York Times , researchers found that there are in fact instances where lean economic times might actually have a positive impact on our health.
While it goes without saying that a flourishing economy goes a long way to improving our standard or living, it is interesting to note that there are instances where economic prosperity does not always translate into good health.
Take, for instance, the economic expansion of the past two decades. While we have witnessed unprecedented growth in the stock market along with an incredible accumulation of wealth, the population as a whole has also experienced skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
The reason for this seems to boil down to time, or lack thereof. When the economy is good, people seem to dedicate more of their lives to working hard at their jobs. In fact, in a previous post, Xin Lu wrote about a Japanese worker who actually worked himself to death!
While the desire to work hard and do a good job is completely understandable, it also means that less time is dedicated to the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, which includes healthy eating, exercise, and regular check ups with your doctor. When times are good, people also tend to embrace unhealthy habits like excessive consumption of alcohol (especially before getting behind the wheel), as well as stress and anxiety that can come from trying to maintain a certain lifestyle, which also, in the modern era of consuming, can entail accruing debt.
Then, of course, there is the issue of spending quality time at home with friends and family, which I think is reasonable to say contributes positively to one’s health and brings up the need to distinguish between one’s standard of living and one’s quality of life. This is especially true in the case of raising children.
In fact, some of the data seems to point to the fact that children may actually benefit from the economy slowing down. The reason for this may be hard to nail down, but some theorize that it has to do with more time spent with either mom or dad (who may be unemployed as a result of a slowdown), and the healthy aspects of life that go along with it, i.e., healthy, home cooked meals from scratch, the comfort and peace of mind that come from being around the nuclear family.
It is important to note that for families that are hit harder by a downturn, the results might not be so bright and sunny. In other words, if a family cannot absorb the loss of income, then it doesn’t bode well for the children or the parents. It makes sense, since not only do they have less access to food and health care, but the stress might also compromise quality family time.
On the other hand, if the loss of income can be absorbed, then having a parent spending more time with their children surely can’t be a horrible thing. Sure, you can’t buy as many houses, cars or big screen TVs, but it begs the question, how much is enough? If you can keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back, then maybe the only way to slow down and spend more quality time with your family is to be forced to do it.
So during these difficult times, many of us may have to curb our spending habits. This could mean buying fewer extravagant and frivolous items, and even forsaking our daily latte. This, however, could go a long way in instilling us with a greater appreciation for the simpler things in life, like our famiy, friends, and health.
And maybe even that watered down cup of Yuban, which should be enjoyed in the company of loved ones… slowly.