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Austerity is bad for our health

Monday, April 29 08:08:56

Austerity is having a devastating effect on health in Europe and North America, driving suicide, depression and infectious diseases and reducing access to medicines and care, researchers have said. Detailing a decade of research, Oxford University's David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, from Stanford University, said their findings show austerity is seriously bad for health it is reported by RTE News.

In a book to be published this week, the researchers say that over 10,000 suicides and up to a million cases of depression have been diagnosed during what they call the "Great Recession" and its accompanying austerity across Europe and North America. In Greece, moves like cutting HIV prevention budgets have coincided with rates of the AIDS-causing virus rising by over 200pc since 2011.

This is driven in part by increasing drug abuse in the context of a 50pc youth unemployment rate. Greece also experienced its first malaria outbreak in decades following budget cuts to mosquito-spraying programmes.

And more than five million Americans have lost access to healthcare during the latest recession, they argue, while in Britain, some 10,000 families have been pushed into homelessness by the government's austerity budget. "Our politicians need to take into account the serious - and in some cases profound - health consequences of economic choices," said David Stuckler, a senior researcher at Oxford University and co-author of ''The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills''. "The harms we have found include HIV and malaria outbreaks, shortages of essential medicines, lost healthcare access, and an avoidable epidemic of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide," he said in a statement. "Austerity is having a devastating effect."

Previous studies by Stuckler published in journals such as The Lancet and the British Medical Journal have linked rising suicide rates in some parts of Europe to biting austerity measures, and found HIV epidemics to be spreading amid cutbacks in services to vulnerable people.

But Stuckler and Basu said negative public health effects are not inevitable, even during the worst economic disasters. Using data from the Great Depression of the 1930s, to post-communist Russia and from some examples of the current economic downturn, they say financial crises can be prevented from becoming epidemics - if governments respond effectively.