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Slumping happiness

india Updated: Oct 29, 2008 21:12 IST

Hindustan Times
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True to form, some economists appear to have all the answers to the problems besetting the world. When the ongoing global financial meltdown threatens a nasty slump, it is only a practitioner of the dismal science — and not a shrink — who will tell you that it is good for your health. A recession could even save your life, argues Professor Christopher Ruhm of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. When the economy weakens, his research indicates that mortality rates of all kinds fall.

People also behave in a healthier manner — they smoke and drink less and they’re less likely to be obese. Suicides rise, but total mortality rates drop. The logic seems compelling. During economic downturns, people drive less. As driving is a risky activity, there are less vehicular accidents and pollution. Moreover, during recessions people have more leisure time and seem to smoke less, exercise more and eat more healthily.

The problem with such research is its policy implications. When a Great Recession is imminent, can policy-makers reassure panic-stricken investors and the growing ranks of jobless to not worry and be happy? Can governments survive after peddling such advice?