The Reversal of the Relation between Economic Growth and Health Progress: Sweden in the 19th and 20th Centuries

José A. Tapia, University of Michigan

It is often thought that health progress goes along with economic growth, at least in the long-run. Using the annual rate of growth of the national product as an index of the dynamic status of the economy, and (a) the annual decrease in longevity shortfall (= 90 minus life expectancy at birth), and (b) the decline of mortality rates as indicators of health progress, it is shown with different statistical models that, both in the short and in the long-run, economic growth is significantly associated with health progress in Sweden throughout the 19th century. However, the relation becomes weak as time passes and is completely reversed in the second half of the 20th century, in which it has periods of lower economic growth that associate with significantly greater improvements in health indicators. Evidence of lagged effects of economic growth on health progress is found only for small lags of very few years.

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Presented in Session 110: Long Run Trends and Differentials in Mortality