May 2017

IZA DP No. 10776: Long-Run Effects of Severe Economic Recessions on Male BMI Trajectories and Health Behaviors

With periodic recessions and the rising costs of health care, it is important to know how labor market participation and insecurity affects health outcomes. Yet, this line of research faces a number of methodological challenges which this paper aims to address. We turn to Ukraine's experience after the col-lapse of the USSR to investigate how exogenous labor market shocks during severe recessions affect men's body mass index (BMI) and health-related behaviors. We use growth curve models to analyze BMI trajectories from 2003 to 2007 and find that past exogenous shocks (e.g., plant closings, bankruptcies, restructuring, and privatization) from 1986 to 2003 significantly change the BMI-age relationship for men. We also find a long-lasting effect on drinking behavior that is decreasing with age, while the effect on the probability of smoking is constant across all ages. At the same time, there is no effect on the probability of engaging in vigorous or moderate physical activity.