Better Health – An unexpected consequence of economic crisis

The US health care spend for the year 2008 stood at  $2.4 trillion, that is three times the current stimulus package. Most projections show this amount increasing at a sharp clip as the population ages due to inefficiencies in the health care system.  But can this trend be reversed due to shift in habits of the population.

Kaiser started pushing the message of thrive and overall health in its campaigns. It asked people to eat more vegetables, less of unhealthy meats and other products, exercise better and “to be your own cause”. The current economic crisis seems to be driving people to do exactly that. Here is a picture that captures the change in eating habits of the population (from WSJ)

People are eating more healthy options like fresh vegetables and dairy and reducing meat, sugar, refined foods (cereals) and alcohol.  The WSJ report also stated a drop in eating outside as more people prepare food at home. This not only means they are eating better balanced food they are also eating smaller portions (compared to restaurant serving sizes).

I do not have data to show for increase in time people spend exercising but anecdotaly more people are using public transport and saving on driving which implies they walk more.

In the end eating healthy and living well may very well lead to reduction in health care spend, an unexpected consequence of the economic crisis.