| The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life|
By Ben Sherwood
GLENN: Let me go to Ben Sherwood now. Hey, aren't you the author of that book thing?
SHERWOOD: Yes, sir. Aren't you the front page New York Times guy?
GLENN: Unfortunately I am. We were just looking at the we were just looking at the unemployment numbers. Stu, what are they? 665, 663,000. 663,000 people have been laid off now in the last month. Our unemployment rate is 8.5. We're going to easily hit 10% unemployment this year. And Ben, you actually say and by the way, Ben Sherwood is the author of Survivors Club. It's a great book. But you actually say that this is actually going to be good for people, the recession is. Really? It's good for people. How?
SHERWOOD: Well, you know, I went out looking for the facts about what happens to people in recessions and we all know that these numbers are, latest numbers are just awful. I mean, 663,000 jobs lost in 31 days last month. So that's 21,000 people out of work every hour and that's, in a minute that's 14 jobs lost in a minute. So no one is saying that the recession or unemployment is good. But the surprising science of recessions is that you think that bad things happen to people in recessions and you would think and for years the scientists studying the economy have said that there are lots of negative effects for people when the economy turns south. But the new science of a recession, and people have been studying this around the world for the last decade, they have found this incredible fact which is that for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate, for every 1% increase in unemployment, the mortality rate, the predicted death rate goes down .5%. So that means every time unemployment goes up 1%, about 11,000 in the United States, 11,000 predicted deaths don't happen because of the unexpected health benefits that's a strange thing to say but the unexpected health benefits from rising unemployment and economic downturn.
GLENN: I am so fascinated to hear what I mean, I'm eating pork rinds right now, man. What could the unexpected health benefit be from people losing their jobs?
SHERWOOD: So there's a professor in University of North Carolina in Greensboro, Christopher Ruhm, who is sort of the leading authority on this subject and he has studied 20 years of economic recessions in the United States and he's studied 23 European countries as well looking at what happens in the economic downturns. And he finds that when people lose their jobs, a few things happen. First of all, they are sort of, in the big picture of the economy, they tend to eat better and healthier, they tend to smoke less and they tend to, believe it or not, exercise more. And the results and he's got specific statistics. I mean incredible
GLENN: Hold it just a second.
SHERWOOD: Go ahead.
GLENN: Ben, they also commit suicide at a higher rate, they also drink more. You know, I mean, there's also a lot more stress just on the family alone.
SHERWOOD: So there's no denying that and I don't think that Professor Ruhm argues that recessions and unemployment and these things are good for mental health. In fact, he argues, of course, with the exception of suicide, he says that obviously for mental health this is a terrible, terrible thing. And Professor Ruhm does not advocate recessions to improve our health. No one is arguing that, Glenn. What I thought was fascinating, though, was there is this flip side which is that there are these unexpected health benefits overall. So you are right. Suicide according to Professor Ruhm, there are statistics that it does actually increase as the economy goes down and it decreases as the economy improves. But on these other factors and he can divide this up. So, for instance, you know, smoking goes down significantly. Severe obesity goes down. Physical activity goes up.
GLENN: Hang on just a second. I mean, Ben, that's like saying, okay, obesity goes down. Because people are probably eating less. You know, to me it's like saying, well, gas is $12 a gallon. Boy, that stinks. No, no, because there will be less highway accidents because people can't drive. I mean, we are really trying to make lemonade out of lemons here.
SHERWOOD: Not trying to make lemonade out of lemons because no one, there's not a soul here, none of the academics, and I certainly don't sort of I'm not arguing that these are good things. But when you look at the overall impact of these things, the social scientists who just try to study what happens point out, you are absolutely right, Glenn, there's less air pollution because manufacturing decreases he says, and there are fewer people driving on the roads. So that's right, traffic accidents are reduced. And the point is not again to advocate for this. The point is just that there's some fascinating science about what actually happens, and it's not just, it's not just the statistics that have long been believed and in fact these health problems increase. He actually finds a reduction in the amount of alcohol consumption. Some people drink more but overall there is a reduction in the amount of alcohol consumption.
GLENN: All right, Ben Sherwood, the name of the book is The Survivors Club. You haven't done this stuff is not in the Survivors Club but I appreciate you letting me know about this. And I have to tell you, I think what this says is that you can't have central planning because even a recession has unintended consequences and some of them are positive, you know?
SHERWOOD: Well, that's exactly that's the only reason, when I reached out to your gang about this, I just thought that it's one of those things where when you dig into any story, there's another side to the story that goes against logic, and certainly no one is a proponent of this incredibly painful job loss. I think I mentioned to you that I've just been down to a place in California, El Centro, which has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at around 25% now.
GLENN: Oh, no, no. I just read an article. There's it may be this same city. Is it a grape growing area?
SHERWOOD: Yeah, Imperial Valley, California.
GLENN: It's now 41%, Ben. That's what I read just yesterday.
SHERWOOD: And so and I was at the food banks and I was in the Salvation Army shelter and I was there with the sister Maria Luisa who's out there every day and was literally overwhelmed with the pain of the recession. So I'm not here saying that recessions are good.
SHERWOOD: I'm saying that there are these surprising health effects that have a lot to do with the way people's behaviors change to adjust and to accommodate.
SHERWOOD: And overall it's a surprise and it happens around the world.
GLENN: You know, it's the exact reverse of the principle that sometimes when you try to do good, sometimes you get bad. And I think that's what we're living right now. Everybody said let me help the poor get into houses, let me help, you know, let's just help everybody get rich, help everybody have the American dream, et cetera, et cetera. Everybody trying to do good but it turned out quite, quite bad and, you know, some of us thought that made common sense but unfortunately too many in Washington didn't see that common sense. Ben, thanks a lot.