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Economic Crisis Affects Our Health


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

There is nothing else but economy that preoccupies the minds of Americans at present times of economic stress and recession. The negative statistics on unemployment, tanking investments, housing costs and consumer confidence keep coming and coming, leaving people not just scared to spend money, but also very stressed and emotionally exhausted. This stress has an impact on everything, starting with our sleep, mood, physical health, relationships, eating habits and, ending with our willingness to do the things we enjoy doing the most.

"Times of economic stress lead to increased rates of depression," says Dr. Christopher Palmer, director of continuing education at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. "It exacerbates illness in people who have been chronically depressed. But it also causes new cases of depression. Just the fear of losing one's job can put people over the edge."

And, without any doubt, just depression alone can create a variety of negative health effects.

1. SLEEP

  • 33 per cent of Americans reported that they have lost sleep due to the economic crisis.

  • 26 per cent say they are sleeping less than 6 hours per night, which is considered to be at least one hour less than the optimum 7 to 8 hours recommended by sleep experts.

  • About 40 per cent of individuals admitted that they had driven while being drowsy at least once in the past 30 days.

  • Among those who sleep less than 6 hours every night, there is a 66 per cent increase in hypertension, and they are more than 5 times predisposed to develop diabetes.

  • Individuals who sleep less than 7 hours a night are 3 times more likely to be exposed to a common cold compared to those who sleep more.

2. MENTAL HEALTH, STRESS AND HEART

Anxiety, depression and chronic life stress that are triggered by problems at work and the economic crisis, all raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • 80 per cent of Americans reported last year that the economy is a significant source of stress; 49 per cent said the situation makes them feel nervous or anxious; 48 per cent reported that they felt very sad and have developed depression.

  • Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network increased by more than 20 per cent from January 2008 to January 2009. Part of the rise can be associated with people becoming more aware of the hotline, but the economy has definitely been a factor.

  • One out of every three people going through foreclosure are clinically depressed.

  • Nearly twice the risk of heart attack or death was found in coronary-artery-disease patients with the highest levels of depression or anxiety. Among those individuals, a 10 per cent higher risk of heart attack or death was found in those whose anxiety rose over time.

  • Anger and hostility trigger behavioral changes, such as smoking, binge eating and lack of physical activity that, in turn, are associated with an increased risk of heart-related problems. A 19 per cent rise in risk was found among those who considered themselves as healthy, and a 23 per cent increase was found in those who already had heart disease.

3. RELATIONSHIPS

  • 70 per cent of Americans said that debt has contributed to distress in their home lives.

  • The chances of violent behavior are nearly 6 times higher for individuals who are left without a job.

  • Women are more likely to get distressed when husbands lose jobs than do the men when their wives lose a job.

  • Workplace stress can lead to domestic violence.

  • 40 per cent of Americans confessed that they had lied to their spouses about spending money on something in a survey of 1,001 people.

  • Money is the number one source of disagreement in the early years of marriage.

  • The financial strain of job loss reduces overall satisfaction in a relationship.

4. DURING A DOWNTURN, PEOPLE CONSUME MORE ALCOHOL

  • In times of crisis, people are more likely to consume more alcohol, as well as drive being drunk and spend more money on booze.

  • After the economy went down, people started to save money on drinking out, in restaurants and bars, but are spending more on alcohol to enjoy it at home, according to Mintel International, a Chicago-based market analysis company.

  • In 2008, the sale of alcohol that was consumed at home, went up to nearly $78 billion, an increase of 32 per cent after 2003, Mintel estimates.

  • The company projects that for the next 5 years, the numbers that will be spent on alcohol to be consumed at home, will increase by 5 per cent annually, while drinking at bars and restaurants will decline by 2 per cent this year and by 1 per cent each year after that.

Source: The Los Angeles Times.

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