I realized I still don't have Season Three and Four. Maybe when I have money again, perhaps after Christmas. I don't like falling too far behind because then it costs so much to catch up!
This article goes along with one of my calendar entrees, which sadly I didn't have time to transcribe today, about how the American work week would "shortly be four days," an observation which was made early in the 20th Century. Ah, well.
© 2009 Time Incorporated. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.
PROFITS ARE DOWN at Hillenbrand, America's largest maker of caskets. Admittedly, this fact sounds like the setup for a punch line, but the cause of the shortage in stiffs contains lessons for politicians and business leaders alike. Hillenbrand's CEO, Kenneth Camp, explained his company's main problem this way in a recent conference call with analysts: "Continuing lower death numbers." As we grind through the longest recession in 75 years, Americans across the land are not dropping like flies. In fact, there's a virtual epidemic of people not dying.
This rise in the living was predictable. The truth, little known but well documented, is that death rates decline and healthy living habits improve in tough economic times. Extensive research by Christopher J. Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina, shows that a one-percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate reduces the death rate by 0.5%. Those are U.S. results, but other studies show the same effect in Spain, Germany, and the 23 OECD countries in aggregate.
People live longer in recessions mainly because they become healthier, not because they face fewer external causes of death, such as auto accidents, which decline because people drive less, for example. What's more, the evidence of improved health shows up in ways beyond lower death rates. As unemployment gets worse, general medical problems become less prevalent: When the economy gets sick, people get healthier.
An important reason seems to be that people adopt smarter lifestyles in recessions, especially those people with the worst health habits. Chain smokers cut back. The indolent go to the gym. Even the severely obese start to lose weight. Combine those improvements and you get a healthier nation, even in the short period of a typical recession.
The obvious question is why people improve their habits when times turn bad. Statistical analysis shows that lower incomes aren't the reason; strapped consumers apparently aren't getting fitter because they must bike to work and survive on oatmeal and turnips. Instead, one reason seems to be extra free time. Having no job means more time to hit the gym or just go for a walk. Exercise leads to weight loss, and research shows that it correlates with less smoking (though which causes which isn't clear). Being unemployed or underemployed also means more time for sleep, which improves health.
Policymakers in Washington and CEOs can draw two important lessons from the recession's effect on health.
Healthy Living, Not Health Care, is the Issue
A lesson for health-care reformers is that their focus, our system of insurance and care, isn't the root cause of America's high medical costs. The recent downturn in dead people is a reminder that the No. 1 culprit for rising health-care costs is lifestyle. It's significant that recessions reduce smoking, inactivity, and obesity. "Those three things drive chronic conditions," says Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Delos Cosgrove, "and chronic conditions account for 75% of the cost of health care in the United States." If reformers haven't figured out how to alter U.S. lifestyles--and they apparently haven't--they shouldn't expect dramatic results by changing how those costs are paid for.
Longer Hours can Lessen Productivity
A lesson for companies is that it's possible to make employees work so hard that it's bad for the business. If employees can't find time for physical activity--or are exhausted after grueling 60-hour workweeks--the employer will pay a price in lost productivity and higher medical costs.
As for Hillenbrand, the recession may be thinning profits, but the company is adapting to the long-term trend. A few years ago it introduced its Dimensions line of caskets for the extra-wide loved one. Sales are brisk.
We had to run out to Costco and get cat food, lest we be mobbed by a pack of angry felines. Whilst there had the usual run of freebies -- that's usually a weekend lunch but tonight it was appetizers. There was pancetta (yum), little pizzas, Chai tea, sesame dressing, chips and salsa -- seriously, you can get a good meal at Costco if you hit it at the right time. We bought some popcorn, lovely flavored stuff, because I agitated for it and my wife is too good to me.
Today was running around in costume, eating candy, eating a large lunch with cake (retirement party), then more food. I need to be VERY GOOD next week if I want to proceed to my goal, which seems to be receding rather than coming closer (oops).