Tuesday, October 13, 2009

'Less Wealth - Better Health'


According to some recent (some would say biased) research by the pensions provider Friends Provident in the UK, having to tighten our belts can have a beneficial effect on our waistline as well as the rest of our health. ‘Less wealth leads to better health’, blasted the headline I saw.
The results of a survey of 4,000 people showed that 57 % of respondents admitted that they’d like to do more to take care of their body and health. Quite why the remaining 43 % of respondents stated that they would like to do less to take care of their health is unclear and perhaps demonstrates the dangers of reading too much into these type of publicity inspired surveys.
The jist of the report seemed to suggest that with falling incomes, 48 % of respondents were eating less ready meals than this time last year, with 83 % having made some change to their eating habits over that time. Some children it seems are feeling the brunt of the recession harder than others with 21 % of parents stopping providing ‘treats’ in children’s lunch boxes – proof if proof were needed that the children are always the first to suffer! Something we can applaud though: 50 % of parents no longer provide fast food meals for their little-ones.
It’s also interesting to see that 55 % of respondents ‘frequently’ get 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days per week. I’m sorry to be putting a downer on things here, but there is no way that 55 % of the UK population (and by extension, as all these things are, the Irish population) are exercising 5 days a week. It just can’t be the case. I’d be bumping into them all as I do my daily jog. Ok, ok, I’d be seeing them out the window as I watch Celebrity Masterchef, but you get the idea!
According to some more objective research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, the bleak years of the Great Depression could have led to improved fitness in the American population. By analysing masses of census data, the social scientists found that in the years from 1920 – 1940, life expectancy (how long you can expect to live) went up when employment went down and vice versa. The greatest gains in life expectancy were made during the darkest days of the depression whereas relatively prosperous years, such as 1926 and 1936 coincided with setbacks in terms of life expectancy.
Since one might expect life expectancy to increase when a strong economy is prevailing and people have more access to healthcare, one of the scientists responsible for this latest work Jose Tapia Granados tries to explain this seemingly counterintuitive finding: "people who have studied the effect of health care on population health are in general not inclined to think that health care has a big impact." During boom times, people “tend to drink more, [and] tend to be overweight and obese during periods of economic expansion.” The authors also credit the impact of stressful jobs and even motorcar accidents (both cars and accidents increase in boom times) as contributing factors towards the decrease in life expectancy shown.
Telling the Government that health care doesn’t have a really big impact on health is like a license to cut healthcare spending even further of course. It’ll be interesting though to see what the effect of this present downturn has on global health patterns and the health of Irish people in particular. In the road-running community, all the talk is of a large, steady increase in numbers training for and competing in road races around the country. It would be nice to think that a slower economy could help speed us up towards doing a little more exercise.

1 comments:

GreatEnthusiasm.Blogspot.Com November 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

i prefer Big Wealth Better Health hehe...

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