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The impact of economic shocks on health and health inequalities


Project Description

The PhD is in the area of the impact on health of economic shocks. The causal pathways between economic circumstances and health status are affected by economic shocks, such as the recent economic recession, and the latest causal mediation analysis methods. According to the human capital model of health investment if individuals experience an economic shock, we expect their health to worsen, as they have less resources to invest in their health. Thus, sudden changes in income and wealth should directly affect the production of health. However, there might be indirect effects that may cause further health changes. For example, different levels of education might mediate the effect of an economic shock and we could also expect indirect effects from engaging in unhealthy behaviours (e.g. tobacco/alcohol consumption, poor diet/lack of physical activity). Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that an individual could engage in unhealthy behaviours after an economic shock for three main reasons: because of reduced income, consumers might be forced into a poorer diet; individuals might adopt a more sedentary lifestyle due to increased costs of exercise; individuals might start more frequently consuming potentially addictive goods (e.g. tobacco) due to utility compensation (after an economic shock, they might shift resources towards the consumption of addictive goods, as this may increase short-term utility/pleasure). These indirect effects resulting in behavioural changes may affect physical health, with the potential of impacting on mental health as well.

Overall, the aim of this PhD project is to investigate and more precisely identify empirically the various causal pathways which link economic shocks to changes in health.

The research will focus on individuals aged 50 years or over because of the potential more severe health consequences of economic shocks among older adults. While the previous literature has identified that economic recessions may have larger effects on mental health and the incidence of depression amongst older individuals, the several mechanisms linking changes in economic circumstances with deteriorations in physical and mental health remain unexplored.

The PhD will use new and advanced quantitative techniques, building capacity in a key area (health economics) where there is a real world shortage of quantitatively skilled economists. In addition, there will be definite public health policy relevant papers showing for the first time how mediating effects impact upon health and financial changes in a population. This will allow policy makers to target scarce public health resources in areas where they can really make a difference, within particular populations.

Candidates should have a 2.1 or 1st class degree in a relevant discipline. A Master’s degree in a relevant discipline would be an advantage.

Expressions of interest should be made to Professor Jennie Popay including a covering letter, copy of your CV and contact details for two referees.

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded studentship, including tuition fees, an annual tax-free stipend of £14,777 ( index-linked) and contribution towards research and training costs. It is linked to the Liverpool and Lancaster Universities Collaboration for Public Health Research (LiLaC), which is part of the National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research (SPHR). Three other fully-funded studentships are being advertised by LiLaC at the same time, on different aspects of inequalities in health. All PhD studentships appointed by LiLaC will have access to development and support opportunities through the NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre and Academy.

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