Europe's Great Recession provides an opportunity to study the impact of increased financial insecurity on health. A number of studies explored the impact of the Recession on health, but they often reached different conclusions. To understand the root of this debate, we undertook a systematic literature review. Articles were analysed thematically based on: geography, data type, operationalisations of wealth and health, and study design. A critical appraisal was also undertaken. Forty-two studies, published from January 2010 to October 2018, were included in our review. Twenty-six of the forty-two studies found that the Great Recession worsened physical health indicators in the Eurozone. In terms of geography, a large concentration of studies focussed on Spain and Greece, indicating that there may be a gap in understanding the health consequences for EU countries with less severe experiences of the Recession. Regarding data type, nearly all studies used secondary datasets, possibly meaning that studies were constrained by the data available. In terms of operationalisations of wealth and health, a majority of studies used single/simple measures of both, so that these multi-faceted concepts were not fully reflected. Further, fewer than half included studies used panel data, with the remaining studies unable to undertake more causal analyses. The results of the critical appraisal showed that lower-quality studies tended to not find a negative impact of the Recession on health, whereas higher quality studies generally did. In future, we recommend conducting cross-country comparisons, using (inter)nationally-representative panel data conducted over a minimum of a ten-year time horizon, and employing multi-faceted operationalisations of wealth and health. This could provide more common ground across studies, and a clearer indication of whether the Recession impacted health.
- Great Recession
- Literature review