Fetal Origins of Mental Health: Evidence from Natural Disasters in Taiwan

Published on: 2016-09-06

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This event is co-organized by the Division of Social Science, HKUST and HKUST Institute for Emerging Markets Studies

Abstract / Seminar Summary

This paper examines the impact of poor intrauterine environment on psychological well-being later in life caused by severe typhoons that took place in Taiwan. Exploiting time and geographical variation, we compare the mental health of individuals who were exposed to severe typhoons while in utero in landfall counties to those who had no fetal exposure to severe typhoons. We find that the likelihood of mental disorders in adulthood resulting from fetal exposure to severe typhoons increased by 12%. The incidence of mood disorder (e.g. depression) and the use of antidepressant increased by more than 40%. The effects are more prominent for women.

About the Speaker

Elaine M. Liu is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Houston. She received her B.A. from Wellesley College in 2003 and her Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University in 2008. Professor Liu’s research lies at the intersection of the fields of development economics, labor economics, health economics and behavioral economics. Her research focuses on the applied microeconomic issues in China and in Taiwan. Her recent work examines the impact of foreign bride influx on native women’s intrahousehold bargaining power in Taiwan. Her works have been published in venues including the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Health Economics, the Journal of Development Economics and the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organizations.

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