Volume 37 - Article 25 | Pages 769–852

Macroeconomic conditions and population health in Iceland

By Kristín Helga Birgisdóttir, Tinna Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir

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Date received:25 Jan 2017
Date published:27 Sep 2017
Word count:6871
Keywords:economic conditions, economic cycle, Iceland, life expectancy, mortality, population health


Background: Results from recent research on the impact of economic cycles and population health have been mixed, with results appearing to be context-sensitive.

Objective: We examine the long-term relationship between economic conditions and population health in Iceland, which has experienced some economically turbulent times in the last years and decades.

Methods: We use aggregate annual data for 1981‒2014. We use three aggregate indicators of economic activity to proxy the economic cycle: unemployment rate, real GDP per capita, and real GDP. Life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, and total mortality as well as four cause-specific mortality rates were used as outcome measures.

Results: Our results do not suggest a statistically significant relationship between economic conditions and total mortality, infant mortality, or life expectancy. Different responses between causes of death are found, and in some instances between genders, although statistical significance is low. We do, however, find a consistent and statistically significant relationship for females aged 45‒64, where economic downturns are associated with lower all-cause mortality.

Conclusions: For the time period studied we do not find a significant relationship between economic cycles and population health, where health is proxied by mortality rates, life expectancy at birth, and infant mortality. Further studies using less extreme health outcomes, such as morbidity rates, are warranted.

Contribution: This type of study has not been performed using Icelandic data before and provides a comparison to research from other countries where the relationship has been explored more. Additionally, one of the contributions of this paper is to use a variety of economic indicators as proxies for economic cycles in a study examining their relationship with population health.

Author's Affiliation

Kristín Helga Birgisdóttir - Háskóli Íslands (University of Iceland), Iceland [Email]
Tinna Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir - Háskóli Íslands (University of Iceland), Iceland [Email]

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