During the Great Depression People Actually Lived Longer

The Great Depression was a difficult time that turned life in the United States, when millions of people struggled to find and cope with work. Despite the tough times, the average lifespan of Americans has actually increased.

In fact, historical research shows that during the 20th century, increases in mortality in the United States often occurred during periods of economic prosperity, while decreases occurred during economic depressions or recessions.

In the first years after the 1929 stock market crash, the only major cause of death that has increased has been suicide, says José A. Tapia Granados, professor of politics at the University of Drexel and co-author of a research article published in 2009 in PNAS on life and death during the Great Depression. As suicides increased, Tapia found that deaths from cardiovascular and kidney disease stabilized between 1930 and 1932, the worst years of depression. Road fatalities fell in 1932. Deaths from tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia also declined.

READ MORE: How apples became a weapon against the Great Depression

As a result, average life expectancy in the United States increased from about 57 in 1929 to 63 in 1933. Over the two decades, people of color had an average life expectancy lower than that of whites. However, when depression hit, the average life expectancy of people of color increased faster than that of whites, increasing by about eight years from 1929 to 1933.

Less traffic, smoking with a bad economy

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