More Deaths Among Older People During Economic Upswings: Study

Effect seen in both middle age and retirement in analysis of 19 nations

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A couple of other factors might explain the increase in death rate, said Abdulrahman El-Sayed, a researcher in the department of epidemiology at Columbia University, in New York City.

One might be that seniors' budgets become pinched in a hot economy. "If your income is fixed, as it for elderly adults, then the value of your dollar is potentially lower in a good economy," El-Sayed said.

It might also be that people are dying at the same rate, but the folks who keep an eye on the death rate are better-funded, he said.

"You could see potential improvements in reporting. The economy gets better, and there's more funding for the public health departments that collect this data. You might consider there's more robust collection when the economy is strong," El-Sayed said.

But he does believe the study's authors are onto something when they talk about the social costs of success. The middle-aged folks suffer due to work stress and other factors related to employment, and the seniors suffer because the middle-aged are away at work and unable to care for them.

"The implication for the average individual is that it's really important to remember that the value of the dollar isn't the only value we care about. When we think about that extra hour at work, we have to weigh that against other things we value like time spent with our family," El-Sayed said. "The cost of that extra dollar might be one's health."

More information

The American Psychological Association offers tips on managing your stress in tough economic times.

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