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(Photo: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock)

The Upside of Economic Downturns: Better Childhood Health

• July 18, 2014 • 10:00 AM

(Photo: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock)

For children, the benefits of being born in tough times can outweigh the costs.

Did you have a child at the end of the aughts? It turns out your timing was better than you realized.

A study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine finds that being born during a recession is beneficial to childhood health.

Comparing economic trends in the participants’ 10 home countries with self-reports of childhood well-being, the researchers found that kids, on average, grow up healthier in a recessionary environment.

Viola Angelini and Jochen Mierau of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands examined health data on 18,182 Western Europeans born between 1920 and 1957.

Comparing economic trends in the participants’ 10 home countries with self-reports of childhood well-being, the researchers found that kids, on average, grow up healthier in a recessionary environment. They suspect this reflects the fact that financially challenged households tend to eat healthier and “spend more time on healthy activities.”

The researchers concede that economic hardship can cause stress for parents, but conclude that for children, the benefits of being born in tough times outweigh the costs. Remind your kids to thank you when they grow up.


This post originally appeared in the July/August 2014 print issue of Pacific Standard as “The Upside of Economic Downturns: Better Childhood Health.” Subscribe to our bimonthly magazine for more coverage of the science of society.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

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