Recessions are generally believed to be caused by a widespread drop in spending. Beginning in the United States in December 2007 the industrialized world has been undergoing a recession, a pronounced deceleration of economic activity. The financial crisis has been linked to reckless and unsustainable lending practices resulting from the deregulation and securitization of real estate mortgages in the United States. Whatever the cause, there is one question that has been getting the least amount of attention; what effects does the economy have on our health as a society?
The World Health Organization has defined health as being “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. So, health is maintained and improved not only through the advancement and application of health science, but also through the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the individual and society. Of all the choices and individual can make in order to better, or in this case worsen, one’s health our focus will narrow on four, nutrition, exercise and stress.
Nutrition is defined as “nourishing or being nourished; the series of processes by which an organism takes in and assimilates food for promoting growth and replacing worn or injured tissues or alleviated with a healthy diet. ” A poor diet can have an injurious impact on health, causing deficiency diseases like anemia; health-threatening conditions like obesity, and such common chronic systemic diseases as diabetes, and osteoporosis. With unemployment affecting ten percent of the U. S. population and employers cutting wages in every industry, focus shifts from proper nutrition towards an affordable meal.
Take Whole Foods for example, in 2009 profits decreased by 4. 0% versus a 9. 3% increase in the prior year. Being the world’s leader in natural and organic foods they pride themselves carrying the healthiest and freshest products around, but it comes with a price. Their best selling items can be found in the self serve salad bar which runs from four to nine dollars. On the other hand those who opt for cheap rather than healthy may choose McDonald’s, whose total revenue increase by 17% in 2009.
The top two most popular items on the McDonald’s menu, Big Mac and fries, each have 25-29 grams of fat; both items can also be purchased for less than $3. 50 each and in some cases less than a dollar. For this reason it is easy to see that in a time of economical need nutritional value is not the deciding factor for lunch, or any meal for that matter. At this rate the cholesterol and blood pressure levels of our society are sure to soar in the coming years according to the American Heart Association.
In order to maintain one’s body healthy nutrition should be paired with exercise. Just as with nutrition, exercise takes a backseat in times of economic distress. A gym membership at the popular LA Fitness can cost upward from $100 to sign a contract and $30-$40 a month thereafter. The gym may be the first luxury to go when times get tough because it is not considered a priority. Gyms and health club have recognized this and are taking steps to insure they have members lining up. Bally Total Fitness, for example, is now offering $29. 5 a month and no enrollment fee or contract is necessary.
But for those who find that the cost of a gym is not in their budget, there was still hope. Elizabeth Brocca is a fifty-three year old Senor Account Assistant at the University of Miami; after wages were lowered in January 2009 she found herself making $5,000 less than the previous year. With a history of heart disease in her family and having suffered from high blood pressure herself, she took matters into her own hands; Elizabeth began using a Stair Master machine she had bought decades earlier.
She uses the exercise machine about three times a week for half an hour. There are rising numbers of people trading weights for running shoes and using their own front doors as a personal gym. Dr. Holly Phillip of CBS reported at the beginning of the recession that citizens troubled by the economy were “irritable, fatigued, and turning to unhealthy ways to cope”. Stress is when the body responds to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. “The brunt of the country’s financial woes seems to take a greater toll on women than men.
New data from the American Psychological Association show 84 percent of women are stressed out about the economy, compared with 75 percent of men”, says Dr. Phillips. Stress is the number one reason why people get back to drinking and smoking once they’ve quit; about 22% of men and 15% of women said the managed stress by drinking. But it is not only how we handle stress that is unhealthy but also stress in itself. Effects of stress include aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid eartbeat. Though the way in which each individual manages and defuses stress varies some of the most common stress relievers are listening to music and relaxation techniques such as Yoga and meditation; these may be easier said than done when stress is incurred because of the loss of a job. The state of the economy does create factors that enable unhealthy behavior and an unhealthy environment. But whether each individual chooses to become consumed by it or not should be person’s prerogative.
No one should be a victim of their circumstances; though there are many issues pointing towards an unwholesome lifestyle, this does not mean our society has become unhealthy because of the economy. Those who blame the healthy food for being expensive can grow a vegetable garden, if going to the gym is too costly going to a nearby park will do. Stress can be managed through meditation or reflection. Just like everything else in life, we must make the right choices in order to live a balanced life.