Amidst all the bad economic news is one little ray of light: the health of individuals tends to improve during a recession. Death rates actually decrease as productivity drops, with the exception of suicide deaths. People with more free time tend to get more excercise and eat better.
This study investigates the relationship between economic conditions and health. Total mortality and eight of the ten sources of fatalities examined are shown to exhibit a procyclical fluctuation, with suicides representing an important exception. The variations are largest for those causes and age groups where behavioral responses are most plausible, and there is some evidence that the unfavorable health effects of temporary upturns are partially or fully offset if the economic growth is long-lasting. An accompanying analysis of microdata indicates that smoking and obesity increase when the economy strengthens, whereas physical activity is reduced and diet becomes less healthy.
From the 2000 study “Are recessions good for your health?“