UNH Research Finds Elderly Used Less Long-Term Care During the Great Recession

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

DURHAM, N.H. – The use of long-term informal care by Americans over the age of 65 declined by 6.75 percent during the Great Recession, according to new research by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. The decrease was driven by a drop in unpaid care provided in the home, usually by adult children or spouses.

“That recessions are associated with better health for certain individuals, especially the elderly, is one of the more unexpected findings to come from research on the relationship between the economy and health,” the researchers said. “Surprisingly, despite a large reduction in wealth in elderly households caused by the recession, we do not also find a significant change in the use of paid home care provided by non-relatives or nursing home care.” 

While the researchers say the cause of a reduction in informal home care is not immediately obvious, the researchers said that one reason may be a corresponding increase in health.

“Those over the age of 65 who report fair or poor health decreased by 6.6 percent during the Great Recession,” the researchers said. “Better health reduces the need for care.”

The research was conducted by Reagan Baughman, associate professor of economics, and Jon Hurdelbrink, who earned a doctorate in economics at UNH and is now an assistant professor at Drake University.

The Carsey School of Public Policy conducts research, leadership development, and engaged scholarship relevant to public policy. They address pressing challenges, striving for innovative, responsive, and equitable solutions at all levels of government and in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

The University of New Hampshire is a flagship research university that inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top ranked programs in business, engineering, law, health and human services, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, receiving more than $100 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space.