A Penn Medicine researcher found that economic crises lead to more premature deaths from substance abuse, suicide, and heart disease.
The study found that levels of economic prosperity across the United States directly correlated to death rates from heart disease and stroke in middle-aged Americans, Penn Today reported. Perelman School of Medicine instructor Sameed Khatana and his co-authors published the study on Feb. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Khatana's research found that from 2010 to 2017, death rates from heart disease and strokes declined in economically prosperous areas but were flat when the economy slowed down, Penn Today reported. On average, counties with the greatest increase in economic growth had 14 fewer deaths from heart disease for every 100,000 middle-aged citizens compared to counties with a decrease in economic growth.
"If the pandemic exacerbates these economic trends, we may be left with an even greater disparity in the health and well-being of Americans living in different parts of the country," Khatana wrote in an article for Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.
Khatana wrote that governments should aim to secure financial stability to limit the increase in death rates during economic downturns. Congress and President Joe Biden are currently working on a $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package that the Penn Wharton Budget Model found would increase GDP in 2021.
“Our study demonstrates some of the important health consequences of an uneven economic recovery," Khatana wrote. "If the economic fallout from the pandemic is left unchecked, the disparities seen after the last recession will continue to grow and the health impacts will be felt for years to come."
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