BAD times are not just measured by a plunging Gross Domestic Product.
Recessions have been seen in hemlines: Back in the '20s, economist George Taylor found that skirts got longer as the economy slowed.
These days, there's been talk of a 'haircut index', with short locks signalling a market drop.
But psychologists and trend watchers found that slow tempo songs, curvy women and even joggers can indicate if the stock market is going north or south, reported International Herald Tribune.
Here are some of the best indexes that will give government statisticians spasms.
When you're depressed, you're not in the mood for upbeat tunes.
Professor Terry Pettijohn, who lectures psychology at Coastal Carolina University, found that in uncertain times, people tend to prefer songs that are longer, slower, with more meaningful themes.
He is one of those who sees popular tastes shift with economic conditions.
Looking at Billboard No1 songs from 1955 to 2003 for a study to be published in the journal Psychology of Music, he singled out slow ballads like Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water and Dionne Warwick's That's What Friends Are For as likely favourites when the going gets tough.
He added: 'In better times, it's more likely to be faster, upbeat songs like At The Hop or My Sharona.'
But the correlation isn't perfect.
The nonsensical yet upbeat Macarena was a hit in a relatively bad year.
In a study of American movie stars from 1932 to 1955, Prof Pettijohn found actresses with mature features - small eyes, large chins, and thin faces - more popular in hard times.
Just like Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, 46, who is not a pin-up babe, but someone who has won several acting awards with a strong onscreen presence.
Said Prof Pettijohn: 'What we find attractive... is affected by the environment, by what's happening in society, and what makes us feel more comfortable in threatening times.'
Perhaps that explains why Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Year in bad times tended to have a more mature appearance - that is, to be older, heavier, taller and less curvy - than those selected when times were good.
More laxatives and rice
Buying patterns too, can be predicted in economic downturns, according to Mr Leo Shapiro, who has tracked consumer behavior since the late 1930s.
'During a recession, laxatives go up, because people are under tremendous stress, and holding themselves back,' said Mr Shapiro, now chief executive of a Chicago-based consulting firm.
'During a boom, deodorant sales go up, because people are out dancing around. When people have less money, they buy more of the things that have less water in them, things that are not so perishable.
'Instead of lettuce and steak and fruit, it's rice and beans and grain and pasta. Except this time the price of pasta's so high that it's beans and rice.'
A recent Nielsen report listed tobacco, carbonated drinks and eggs as especially vulnerable to recession, and candy, beer and pasta sauce as recession-proof.
On Thursday, Hershey's announced third-quarter sales and income higher than last year's.
Some economists even say that there are positive health effects in bad times.
No money to go clubbing? Then try jogging.
Can't afford a car? Then walk it.
Said economist Christopher Ruhm at the University of North Carolina: 'People are physically healthier in times of recession.
'Death rates fall, people smoke less, drink less and exercise more. Traffic fatalities go way down, which is not a surprise when people drive less.
'Heart attacks go down.
'Back problems go down. People have more time to prepare healthier meals at home. When the economy weakens, pollution falls.'
But this view has its limits.
Said Mr Ruhm: 'People are healthier, but they're not happier. Suicide rises, and mental health may deteriorate.'
By most accounts, bad times herald an upturn in at least some crime.
'I've never been able to find any relationship between violent crime and the economy,' said Mr Stephen Raphael, an economics professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, who specialises in urban and labor economics.
'But there is a relationship with property crime. Whether it's burglary, larceny or motor vehicle theft, they all go up with unemployment.'
This article was first published in The New Paper on Oct 20, 2008.