The impact of the 2008 recession on the health of older workers: Data from 13 European countries

Hila Axelrad, Erika L. Sabbath, Summer Sherburne Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Fluctuations in the national economy shape labour market opportunities and outcomes, which in turn influence the health conditions of older workers. This study examined whether overall economic shifts during the 2008 recession was associated with four health indicators among older workers. Method: Data came from 4917 respondents (16 090 contacts) aged 50-70 in 13 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland) participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. Health and employment assessments from 2004-13 were linked to annual data on fluctuations in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, life expectancy and unemployment rates for each country. Using fixed effects models, we assessed the recession's implications on four individual health outcomes: body mass index (BMI), drinking alcohol, depression and general health, while isolating cyclical variation within countries and individual changes over time. Results: Overall economic shifts had an effect on older workers: decreases in GDP were associated with a decline in average BMI, consumption of alcohol and deterioration in self-rated health; country-level unemployment rate had no effect on health outcomes, while life expectancy at birth was significant but not consistently across models. Being employed or retired were associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better self-rated health. Conclusions: Overall economic shifts during recessions affect certain health outcomes of older workers, and better health conditions together with being employed or retired may limit the negative health consequences of a recession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-652
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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