Government austerity impacting mortality rates, according to report

Research suggests that government cuts after the 2008 financial crash led to a stagnation in falling mortality rates.

Austerity policies have made a “devastating impact” to mortality rates, according to a new report.

The research, carried out by Glasgow University and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health using already available studies, has suggested people across the UK are dying younger as a result of austerity.

Data revealed that mortality rates throughout the 20th century fell year on year but began to stagnate around 2012.

The report suggests that government cuts in the wake of the 2008 financial crash has contributed to the stagnation.

“Austerity is evidenced as making an important and substantial causal contribution, and is likely to underpin a number of the other observed changes,” the report read.

“Austerity is highly likely to be the most substantial causal contributor to the stalled mortality trends seen in Scotland and across the UK (and more tentatively across other high income countries).”

The researchers suggested 40 recommendations to address the issue, including an increase to benefits and clamping down on tax evasion and avoidance.

Gerry McCartney, lead author of the report and a professor of wellbeing economy at Glasgow University, said “now is the time to listen to the evidence”.

He 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.”

Dr David Walsh, the report’s co-author, claimed the stagnation in mortality rates “should simply not be happening in a wealthy society such as the UK”.

He added: “The evidence shows they are principally the result of UK government austerity policies that have squeezed billions of pounds from public services and social security and have had a devastating impact on the lives of so many in our communities.

“These changes are almost unprecedented. They should simply not be happening in a wealthy society such as the UK.

 “This is a matter that affects us all and we want to ensure that as broad a range of people as possible are aware of what has been happening and add their voices to those calling for urgent action.”

Chris Birt, associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation added: “This report highlights a crucial truth in the fight to solve poverty, government choices matter. 

“In imposing austerity, the UK Government has managed to stall improvements in life expectancy in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and, worse still, have reduced life expectancy in our least well-off communities.”

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