It's not the work which kills people, it's the worry. It's not the revolution that destroys machinery it's the friction.
-Henry Ward Beecher

Are economic downturns health boosts? Very likely, says Dr. Christopher Ruhm of the University of South Carolina-especially if you normally smoke, are overweight, or are a couch potato. While a long-term bad economy is bad for just about everybody, it turns out that temporary economic downturns dramatically decrease rates of smoking, the intake of fatty foods, and physical inactivity.

Dr. Ruhm's theory is that during difficult economic times, the cost of cigarettes may prompt some smokers to cut back or finally give them up for good. The difference is most marked among heavy smokers. Too, when the economy's bad, folks are more likely to eat at home instead of dropping by restaurants-especially fast food joints-where portions are huge and entrées tend to be loaded with fat and calories. What causes usually inactive people to turn to exercise hasn't been discovered yet.

The puzzling thing is that these changes are not dictated by whether the person has lost his or her job. Even those who are still employed tend to eat healthier, cut back on cigarettes and exercise. Any theories on that one?

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