Report identifies early warning signs that austerity will impact health outcomes
Nov 29, 2017 | NEWS
- Improvements to life expectancy and mortality rates have slowed across Europe during austerity years (2009 – 13)
- The UK has seen the greatest fall in subjective health, with people of all ages reporting a decline in their general health
- As a result of increasing medical costs and declining personal income, a number of countries experienced rising unmet medical needs
A new report from the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK), Public health in Europe during the austerity years, has identified early warning signs that austerity will affect health outcomes for decades to come.
The report was compiled by a team of researchers at ILC-UK on the basis of a series of independent data sources, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Eurostat and the International Monetary Fund.
It indicates that progress on a number of key health indicators has stalled, including life expectancy and mortality rates. Levels of subjective health have fallen among young people aged 15 – 24 across Europe, and in all age-groups in the UK.
In the UK, improvements to mortality rates fell by 63% during the austerity years (2009 – 13) compared to the preceding years (2004 – 08), and progress in life expectancy stalled during the same period. By comparison, improvements to mortality slowed by 26% across Europe, while progress in life expectancy remained stable.
Cuts to preventative medicine in England, such as tobacco control programmes and sexual health services, were highlighted as austerity measures which could impact the health of young people decades into the future. Experts have suggested that preventative medicine has been the casualty of austerity measures as their impact is less visible to the public than cuts on hospitals and GPs.
George Holley-Moore, Research and Policy Manager at ILC-UK said:
“This study paints a mixed picture, with some worrying health outcomes such as a fall in subjective health here in the UK, as well as a reduction in prevention spending and rise in unmet medical needs across Europe. But with ageing populations and increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, European health systems do not need stagnation, they need continual improvement. If the best austerity can offer is health systems that are just about treading water, that will not be enough to meet the immense challenges of increased longevity. We should take heed of these early warning signs and initiate measures to protect our future health.”