The relationship between international trade and non-nutritional health outcomes: A systematic review of quantitative studies

Darren Burns, Andrew Jones, Marc Suhrcke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Markets throughout the world have been reducing barriers to international trade and investment in recent years. The resulting increases in levels of international trade and investment have subsequently generated research interest into the potential population health impact. We present a systematic review of quantitative studies investigating the relationship between international trade, foreign direct investment and non-nutritional health outcomes. Articles were systematically collected from the SCOPUS, PubMed, EconLit and Web of Science databases. Due to the heterogeneous nature of the evidence considered, the 16 included articles were subdivided into individual level data analyses, selected country analyses and international panel analyses. Articles were then quality assessed using a tool developed as part of the project. Nine of the studies were assessed to be high quality, six as medium quality, and one as low quality. The evidence from the quantitative literature suggests that overall, there appears to be a beneficial association between international trade and population health. There was also evidence of the importance of foreign direct investment, yet a lack of research considering the direction of causality. Taken together, quantitative research into the relationship between trade and non-nutritional health indicates trade to be beneficial, yet this body of research is still in its infancy. Future quantitative studies based on this foundation will provide a stronger basis on which to inform relevant national and international institutions about the health consequences of trade policies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date19 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • International Trade
  • Foreign direct investment
  • population health
  • Systematic Review
  • Study Quality Assessment
  • Heterogeneous Evidence

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