As the stock market hovers around all-time highs and fears over some kind of reversal intensify, financial advisors who hedge against potential losses may be protecting their clients’ health as well as their wealth.
That is one conclusion that could be drawn from a rash of new studies linking recession, stock market crashes and volatility to an increase in anxiety, migraines and ulcers, and even hospital admissions.
One of the studies, conducted by a team at San Diego State University led by epidemiologist John Ayers and published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, took a novel, big-data approach to identifying health changes during the Great Recession.
Instead of relying on after-the-fact health surveys, the researchers looked at Internet search queries, seen as offering immediate and precise descriptions of symptoms.
The researchers compared the cumulative difference between queries (e.g., “stomach ulcer symptoms” or “back pain relief”) observed and expected based on trends prior to the study period of December 2008 through 2011.
For the 100 most frequently queried symptoms, the Great Recession produced 205 million health concern queries beyond prerecession trend expectations.
The top maladies, thematically, involved headache, hernia, chest pain and arrhythmia, which generated, respectively, 41%, 37%, 35% and 32% more queries than expected.
More specifically, however, stomach ulcer symptoms and headache symptoms saw recession-era increases of 228% and 193%.
Overall, the study tentatively associates the Great Recession with “worsening population health.”
A closely related, though entirely independent study by finance professors Joseph Engelberg and Christopher Parsons, both of U.C. San Diego, shows that sharp stock market drops are positively linked to immediate spikes in hospital admissions.
Interestingly, mental health maladies such as anxiety, panic disorder and depression were the most pervasive conditions leading to hospitalization. (As for physical ill effects, the researchers found they were most prevalent amidst stock reversals of local companies, suggesting concerns related to jobs and income.)