Khatana and colleagues found that counties with the highest DCI rating at baseline also had the highest baseline cardiovascular mortality, and saw the largest increases in deaths from 2010 to 2015. Death rates remained almost unchanged in counties with the least economic distress, falling from 62.6 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 61.5 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2015.
“We found that it’s not a uniform increase—communities experiencing the most economic difficulties are the ones that are hardest-hit by heart disease deaths,” Khatana said in a release.
Areas that experienced the worst economic distress—including high unemployment, low incomes and a lack of affordable housing—saw an increase of 122 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 127.6 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2015.
“Our study shows that large economic trends—whether it’s a significant reduction in employment or a recession—have a real impact on communities and on the cardiovascular health of people living in those communities,” Khatana said. “It’s important that policymakers, physicians and even patients are aware of this increase in mortality rates. Interventions, such as policies like a health insurance expansion, may help slow this trend or even reverse it.”