most severe bank-related financial crises
since World War II in high-income Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) countries[ 9]
and their post-recession mortality year,
together with some recent data from the
It should be noted that most populations are not as large as the United
States’, so the respective mortality trends
have been less stable. This makes a year
of mortality increase less rare than in
the United States. There are also many
factors that could cause increase in mortality. An increase in mortality may not
necessarily indicate a direct effect from
Also, not all recessions had an observable post-recession mortality increase.
The most severe ones tend to be impactful enough to overshadow random
factors. Milder ones may have a mixed
impact as other factors dominate.
Nonetheless, it is notable to see a
post-recession mortality increase to
some degree after all these severe economic downturns.
Why Does a Post-Recession
Mortality Increase Happen?
Most of the additional mortality in 2015
occurred at older ages. This is not surprising given this age group has by far the
highest mortality rate.
Longevity at older ages is largely
supported by paid care and unpaid informal care. Paid care includes care in
communities, nursing homes, hospices,
and paid home care. Government social
care spending adds to paid care. Informal
care is typically unpaid care provided by
family members, including spouses and
adult children. Informal care plays a critical role in elder care in most societies.
In the United States, the annual unpaid
adult care is estimated to be worth $470
billion, according to AARP. Meanwhile,
health spending on nursing home, home
health care, and personal care combined
is $409 billion.[ 10] In the U.K., the estimated total unpaid care is £119 billion
FIGURE 3. U.S. and U.K . age-adjusted mortality rates .
TABLE 1: Post-recession mortality increases.
Country Crisis Year
Number of Years After
“The Big Five”
Spain 1977 6
Norway 1987 6
Finland 1991 6*
Sweden 1991 8*
Japan 1992 7
The Great Recession
U.S. 2007 8
U.K. 2007 8
Hungary 2008 7
Iceland 2007 6
*Female life expectancy increase only
Age-Adjusted Mortality Rates (per 100,000)
Sources: CDC; ONS. Mortality rates across countries are not directly comparable
because of different reference population used in calculating age-adjusted
per year,[ 11] while the overall health care
spending is £150 billion per year according to ONS. Any material change in
informal care will have a significant impact on society.
The U.K. tracks social care spending
and informal adult care hours. Since the
recession, U.K. government spending on
social care has decreased. This decrease
adversely affected care for the elderly,
which led to potential higher mortality.
On the other hand, during a reces-
sion, more people have time for informal
care at home. Recessions may also create
more part-time jobs that made informal
care more feasible. As a result, informal
care has increased steadily (see Figure 4).
This phenomenon counters the impact
from government spending cuts. There
hasn’t been any obvious increase in older
age mortality until 2015.
As the economy recovers, however, we see the reverse in informal care.
People return to work, resulting in a
decrease in informal care. Meanwhile,
government spending continued to