University of Iceland

Unhealthy influences of economic upswings

Unhealthy influences of economic upswings

The aim is to research how economic change influences health. In other countries it has been established that physical health improves in many ways during economic downturns. It is unclear whether this is caused by changes in behaviour, or direct changes in external conditions,” says Þórhildur Ólafsdóttir, student of economics about her doctoral thesis.
The study continues a project she worked on with her supervisor after finishing a master’s degree in health-economics; Ólafsdóttir received a Student Innovation grant for this project.

The doctoral study is twofold. “On the one hand the aim is to find out whether a temporary increase in employment opportunities influences the frequency of coronary disease. The basis for this part will be the natural ‘experiment’ carried out in Iceland in 1987 when people did not have to pay income tax due to changes in the taxation system. On the other hand I will investigate how changes in income and work hours in the aftermath of the crash of 2008 have influenced health behaviour, i.e. smoking and alcohol consumption,” says Ólafsdóttir.

She points out that the majority of research elsewhere on agglomeration data show that in an economic upswing mortality due to cardiovascular diseases goes up. “The conclusions of the study will give clues to what factors are underlying in this context. The study will offer the possibility to distinguish whether increased risk behaviour in an upswing is to blame, or whether people invest less in their health,” Ólafsdóttir adds.

The results of the research will increase knowledge in the field of study. “It will be possible to utilize them in the labour market and the health sector, especially if it is deemed necessary to minimize potential health threats of economic upswings,” Ólafsdóttir points out.

Supervisor: Tinna Laufey Ásgeirdóttir, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Economics.

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