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August 15, 1980

Do Economic Slumps Increase Illness?

JAMA. 1980;244(7):661. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310070015017

To the Editor.—  In "Do Economic Slumps Increase Illness?" (242:1241, 1979), a correlation between ischemic heart disease and economic conditions is suggested. Between 1968 and the end of 1971, the Seattle area's largest employer reduced its work force from more than 100,000 to fewer than 40,000 employees, costing the community a huge proportion of its basic industry jobs. Few communities since the Depression have experienced such severe unemployment so quickly, and many employees with 15 to 20 years' seniority were stunned to find themselves laid off and without any job prospects.Rahe et al1 and Petrich and Holmes2 have shown that life crises such as loss of employment are associated with illness development, yet it is surprising how little (if any) effect the Seattle-area recession had on heart disease mortality in men aged 55 to 64 years (Table). Also, in contrast to the Australia experience, coronary heart disease