Recessions are hard on older workers. Their generally higher paychecks make them easy targets for the chopping block and age discrimination often stymies their efforts to rejoin the workforce. Now, a new study shows that hard times are also downright deadly — reducing the life expectancies of some older workers by up to three years.
That’s according to a study out of Wellesley College that was released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which describes itself as a “private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works.”
To arrive at their conclusion, economists researched 40 years of mortality data and examined it against the backdrop of the economic conditions around the time that people died.
“Those workers who are unlucky enough to approach retirement during a recession will, unfortunately, face long-term health consequences. The situation would likely be worse if it weren’t for the support of the Social Security and Medicare system in providing income support and health insurance for the elderly,” said Wellesley economist Phillip B. Levine, a coauthor of the study.
The study found that workers who dealt with a recession in their fifties and early sixties suffered the sharpest decrease in life expectancy — up to three years — while those who were old enough to be eligible for Social Security benefits were not affected.
The authors speculated that the loss of access to quality healthcare late in life as well as the stress of dealing with reduced financial circumstances contribute to the loss of life expectancy.