Princeton University Library Catalog

Depression, Distress, Decision: Analyzing Health Behaviors During the Great Recession

Yang, Alan [Browse]
Senior thesis
Pejsachowicz, Leonardo [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Economics [Browse]
Class year:
Summary note:
The severity and duration of Great Recession caused considerable financial and mental strain on Americans. Interestingly, previous literature has shown that overall health and health behaviors are countercyclical: people tend to exhibit increased levels of health-promoting activity during recessions. However, the majority of these studies were conducted on time periods predating the Great Recession. Using individual level data from 2001 to 2015 years of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), we provide evidence that this relationship is weaker during the recent time period incorporating the Great Recession than it was prior. Certain outcomes (heavy drinking, smoking, and leisure-time physical activity) exhibit a stronger countercyclical trend than others (bodyweight and self-reported mental health). We also find that habitual consumption-related behaviors, such as chronic drinking and smoking, and self-accessed physical health are better predicted by longer-run averages of the unemployment rate, whereas light drinking and self-accessed mental health are better predicted by short-run economic conditions.