The devastating cost of austerity on mortality rates

Published: 14 June 2022

A new report from our Professor Gerry McCartney and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health calls for urgent action to turn this around

People across the UK are dying younger as a result of austerity, with people living in the poorest areas hardest hit. A report from our Professor of Wellbeing, Gerry McCartney, and colleagues at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health calls for urgent action and presents 40 recommendations to turn the situation around. 

Mortality rates, and related indicators such as life expectancy, are important markers of the health of a population. Over the past two centuries, there has been a consistent improvement in mortality rates across the UK. However, after 2012 life expectancy stopped improving and death rates among people living in the poorest areas have increased.

The report, ’Resetting the course for population health’, provides detailed analysis and evidence of the mortality changes that have occurred across the UK. It critically appraises the evidence for a range of hypotheses that have been suggested as possible contributory factors. From this assessment, it reports UK Government economic ‘austerity’ policies as the most likely contributory cause and presents a range of actions to address the crisis.

The evidence makes clear that such trends are not inevitable, and that action at different levels can improve life expectancy once again. The report makes a total of 40 recommendations spanning macroeconomic policy, social security, work, taxation, public services, material needs, obesity, and Covid-19 recovery. 

The animation highlights why the changes are of so much concern and how austerity has impacted on people. It highlights the effect of poverty and the loss of vital services on people’s lives, resulting in decreased income, poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health, social isolation and, ultimately, poor health and premature death.

Watch the animation:

Dr Gerry McCartney, lead author of the report said: “At a time when we are witnessing an escalating cost of living crisis and when decisions and policy choices are being made about pandemic recovery and rebuilding the economy, now is the time to listen to the evidence and implement these solutions that will support rather than damage population health. Any further austerity policies that squeeze public spending will have disastrous long-term impacts on population health and result in more and more lives cut short. We cannot allow that. The report’s recommendations and policy responses would put us back on a trajectory of improving mortality trends that we were on pre-austerity and support the population and economy to recover and flourish equitably”. 

Gerry also features in episode five of the School's 'Recovering Community' podcast to explore the wellbeing economy movement. 

First published: 14 June 2022

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