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Recession Is Bad for Health

Americans Are Taking Grave Chances With Their Health Because of Recession and Money Fears

Stress Can Make You Sicker

“Stress has a direct impact on the immune system, and this can make people sicker,” he tells WebMD. “Patients need to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week, whether they can afford a gym or not. And this is not the time to go back to fast-food chains, which are less expensive than for people to buy more organic food. We have a sicker society because of the economic recession. This all underscores that we have a broken health care system that needs to be reformed.”

Thousands of people, he says, “are taking chances. I see 62-year-olds with uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes thinking they can make it to 65 when they can get Medicare,” he tells WebMD.

Allen Dollar, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, says he has “a lot of patients who are well off but think their jobs are in jeopardy. This is stressful, so they are cutting back on health costs. Blood pressures are higher.”

“I worry mostly about people stopping their medicines,” he tells WebMD. “But the whole reason many are not in the hospital is their medications. It’s the perfect storm. People are scared, but fruits and vegetables are expensive. And people get depressed and don’t exercise.”

And people are avoiding preventive practices such as mammograms and colonoscopies, which eventually will cost them, he says, as well as society.

Furthermore, the stress of the economic downturn is causing millions to lose sleep, “which is bad because sleep decreases stress,” he says.

Staying Healthy When Money Is Tight

Sandra Fryhofer, MD, an Atlanta internist, says corporate downsizing and the resultant loss of health insurance is literally killing people.

“Now patients have to be proactive,” she tells WebMD. “Take a walk instead of worrying. Some people are saying they can’t pay, and we just try to do what we can. A lot of people have had to be put on antidepressants. I tell them to eat the right foods and exercise, even if they have to give up their [health] clubs.”

Kara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, says membership has dropped 2.4% since 2007, to 45.5 million. However, “More and more people are realizing that money spent on a health club membership is not just money spent, it’s an investment in and commitment to their health,” she tells WebMD. “The return on investment is high, the benefits of exercise are innumerable.”

Bonnie Jacobson, PhD, director of the New York Institute for Psychological Change and an adjunct professor at New York University, says she believes the worst is over, at least on Wall Street, where many of her clients work.  “There was a level of panic, and that migrated out to shock the country,” she tells WebMD. “We’re a country in an anxiety disorder. It’s been a rude awakening.” 

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