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Home Publications Recessions and health: the long‐term health consequences of responses to the coronavirus

Recessions and health: the long‐term health consequences of responses to the coronavirus

James Banks, Heidi Karjalainen and Carol Propper
Journal article | Fiscal Studies, Volume 41, Issue 2

The lockdown measures that were implemented in the spring of 2020 to stop the spread of COVID‐19 are having a huge impact on economies in the UK and around the world. In addition to the direct impact of COVID‐19 on health, the following recession will have an impact on people's health outcomes. This paper reviews economic literature on the longer‐run health impacts of business‐cycle fluctuations and recessions. Previous studies show that an economic downturn, which affects people through increased unemployment, lower incomes and increased uncertainty, will have significant consequences on people's health outcomes both in the short and longer term. The health effects caused by these adverse macroeconomic conditions will be complex and will differ across generations, regions and socio‐economic groups. Groups that are vulnerable to poor health are likely to be hit hardest even if the crisis hit all individuals equally, and we already see that some groups such as young workers and women are worse hit by the recession than others. Government policies during and after the pandemic will play an important role in determining the eventual health consequences.

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