Can the recession make you healthier?

self examinationWhen money gets tight, does our population fail to take care good of itself? When people lose jobs and homes, does it drive them to more actively entertain their personal vices? Do people in dire straits seek psychological satisfaction through increased usage of questionable means, or does a lack of ready funds make people more careful about their health? A recent article by health columnist Tara Parker-Pope, of The New York Times, points at these questions in the light of current economic realities.

Ms. Parker-Pope's article reveals the surprising conclusion that tough economic times can tend to improve health and well being. The truth, which might seem contrary to conventional wisdom, points to increased time with family and closer attention to personal needs, as the reasons that economic downturns might actually improve national health. The article explains how people in economic boom times place more focus on exploiting the booms, and less time on taking care of themselves. On the other hand, people in tough circumstances have more time to take a closer look at their communities, families and selves.

Coping With the Economy

    To deal with the rising cost of food, Royal Caribbean is adding a surcharge for steaks served in its dining rooms.


    Hybrids are one option for fuel-conscious drivers, of course, but many are now opting for even smaller vehicles: scooters. Sales are up 66 percent so far in 2008. Honda is releasing its 2009 model early to capture as many customers as possible.

    M. Spencer Green, AP

    Blaming inflation and rising food and energy prices, the 99 Cents Only discount store announced it was bumping its top price to 99.99 cents -- or one-hundredth of a cent less than a dollar -- the first price increase in the chain's 26-year history.

    Nick Ut, AP

    As economic troubles keep diners at home, restaurants are starting to cut back on portion sizes and are using cheaper ingredients -- even high-end hot spots. In New York, restaurant owners admit to shrinking lobsters, subbing shiitake mushrooms for morels and offering discount appetizers.

    Larry Crowe, AP

    To combat high food prices, many shoppers are turning to bulk purchases, which is driving up sales of stand-alone freezers. A new study shows that sales were up 7 percent in the first six months of the year.

    M. Spencer Green, AP

    Soaring prices for scrap metal may make demolition derbies a thing of the past. Owners who used to sell their worn-out wheels for $50 to $100 are turning to scrap dealers instead, getting nearly triple the price.

    Al Fenn, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

    Cities are cracking down on people who steal from recycling bins, but the practice is getting so widespread that some weekly newspaper publishers going further and hiring private detectives and setting up stakeouts to catch poachers in the act.

    Paul Sakuma, AP

    With foreclosures at an all time high, homeless is rising sharply. One study says that 54 percent of foreclosure victims list moving into emergency shelters as one of their plans. More details.

    Mario Tama, Getty Images

    Swearing by strategies like coasting with their engines off, filling their tires to dangerous capacity and suffering in the summer heat instead of cranking up the A/C, "hypermilers" obsessively coax dozens more miles out of each gallon. More details.

    David McNew, Getty Images

    Joshua Persky, left, an unemployed financial engineer, took to the streets of New York wearing a sign saying "MIT Graduate for Hire" More details.

    Mark Lennihan, AP

Of course, some people do exploit bad times as reasoning for increasing involvement in their bad habits. The alcoholic likely finds acceptable reason to get drunk when he or she can't pay the bills. The drug abuser might cite a greater need to escape. The sex addict might feel that they have reduced options for finding physiological release. The over-eater might state that they have nothing better to do. The truth of the matter is that individuals with self control issues have those issues regardless of economic conditions. Hard times simply provide a convenient excuse for exercise of their personal excesses.

The choice is up to you. When faced with reality, only you can decide how you will handle your life. You can jump off a bridge, or you can join a networking group. You can sit in a tavern or you can write grant proposals for that business you always wanted to start. Just because life is tough, doesn't mean that you have to let it be tough on you. Hike up your boots, paste on a smile, and get to the business of taking care of yourself. Leave that wallowing in pity stuff for somebody else.
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