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BMJ Open ; 12(4): e060710, 2022 04 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1774972


OBJECTIVES: Worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Recession. To prepare for future crises and to preserve public health, we conduct an overview of systematic reviews to examine the evidence on the effect of the Great Recession on population health. METHODS: We searched PubMed and Scopus for systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses focusing specifically on the impact of the Great Recession on population health (eg, mental health). Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed throughout this review and critical appraisal of included systematic reviews was performed using Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews. RESULTS: Twenty-one studies were identified and consistently showed that the Great Recession was most risky to health, the more a country's economy was affected and the longer strict austerity policies were in place. Consequently, a deterioration of health was highest in countries that had implemented strict austerity measures (eg, Greece), but not in countries that rejected austerity measures (eg, Germany). Moreover, the impact of the Great Recession fell disproportionately on the most vulnerable groups such as people in unemployment, at risk of unemployment and those living in poverty. CONCLUSIONS: The experiences of the last economic crisis show that it is possible to limit the consequences for health. Prioritising mental healthcare and prevention, foregoing austerity measures in the healthcare system and protecting vulnerable groups are the most important lessons learnt. Moreover, given the further aggravating social inequalities, a health in all policies approach, based on a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment, is advised.

COVID-19 , Population Health , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Economic Recession , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , Systematic Reviews as Topic