2 Strange Effects of a Bad Economy

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1. Fewer Males are Born

Apparently, rough economic times causes a decrease in the birth of males. Research shows that in times of war and environmental disaster, the sex ratio, which is typically half boys and half girls, gets disrupted. Because of economic stress, women are more likely to go into labor prematurely. Further, since male fetuses are more likely to be miscarried than female, more male babies don't survive the pregnancy and premature labor. The stress also affects the male reproductive system, slowing down sperm motility. Normally, the faster swimming sperm (XY) create the male babies, but under stress, not as many male producing sperm are able to reach the egg.

2. Fewer people Die

Higher unemployment seems to make us healthier. At least, that's what Christopher J. Ruhm, a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is saying. After years of studying health and economic shifts of the 23 developed nations in the OECD, he came to some startling conclusions. Most notably, that a rise in unemployment of one percentage point would predict the 2,900 fewer deaths among young adults and 4,900 fewer deaths among seniors. Despite prior research that claims that poverty and unemployment lead to poor health, his study found that a bad economy may actually be good for our health.
How so? Ruhm looked at CDC data from 1987 to 2000 and found that "smoking, height-adjusted weight, and leisure-time physical inactivity decline when economic conditions worsen." Essentially, the unemployed have less money to buy cigarettes or to drink. The unemployed also have more time to exercise. Ruhm found that 1 percentage drop in unemployment was associated with a 0.75% rise in heart attacks. Because people also drive less, the number of car accidents decreases. In fact, if 1% more people have jobs, the number of traffic accidents increases by 2.1%. 

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August 28, 2008 - 7:06am
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