According to an academic study, more than 330,000 excess deaths in Britain in recent years can be attributed to cuts in spending on public services and benefits introduced by a UK government pursuing austerity policies.
The study authors suggest that additional deaths between 2012 and 2019 – before the Covid pandemic – reflect an increase in the number of people dying prematurely after experiencing reduced income, poor health, poor diet and poor housing , and social isolation.
Previously improving mortality trends began to worsen after the introduction of austerity policies in 2010, when tens of billions of pounds began to be cut from public spending by the coalition government led by conservatives, according to the study.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found there were 334,327 additional deaths beyond the expected number in England, Wales and Scotland over the eight-year period.
The findings come as the current Conservative government announced a new round of major public spending cuts after the financial crisis precipitated by its mini-budget, including proposals to impose a real terms cut in benefits on millions of people of working age.
The paper, led by the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow Center for Population Health, concluded there was a “clear and urgent need” for these policies to be reversed and new strategies implemented to protect the most vulnerable in society.
Professor Gerry McCartney, professor of welfare economics at the University of Glasgow and co-author of the paper, said: ‘As the UK government debates the current and future economic direction, it must understand and learn from the devastating effects that cutting social security and vital services have had on the health of people across the UK.
Co-author Ruth Dundas, professor of social epidemiology at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘This study shows that in the UK many more deaths are likely to have been caused by government economic policy British than by the Covid-19 pandemic. ”
The total number of excess deaths included 237,855 among men in England and Wales and 12,735 among men in Scotland. There were 77,173 excess female deaths in England and Wales and 6,564 in Scotland.
Death rates among women living in the 20% most deprived areas of England have risen by 3% after falling by 14% in the previous decade. In Scotland, premature deaths in the fifth most deprived area have risen by 6-7% for both men and women, following previous declines of 10-20%.
Previous studies have linked austerity policies on health and social care spending to excess mortality in England, as well as a slowing of life expectancy among the poorest people.
A UK government spokesman said: “Our growth plan will drive economic growth across the UK – which is the best way to raise living standards for everyone. We’re also supporting households with rising prices with our energy price guarantee, saving the average household around £1,000 a year for the next two years and providing at least £1,200 of extra help to the cost of living for 8 million of the UK’s most vulnerable people. households.”
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This is a shocking finding which underlines the real human cost of austerity and reinforces the urgent need for the UK government to change course from its current budget proposals. .”
Unison union general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Austerity can never be a solution. It was a failed experiment that had terrible repercussions on communities across the UK and claimed many lives.