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Over 300,000 ‘excess’ deaths attributed to UK government austerity measures

4 Oct 2022 | David Walsh, Ruth Dundas, Gerry McCartney, Marcia Gibson, Rosie Seaman

We, and others, have previously reported the profound and deeply concerning changes to mortality trends that have been observed in Scotland, and across the UK, since around 2012: a stalling in mortality improvements overall, increasing death rates among the most deprived communities, and a widening in inequalities.   

In May we published a major report and animation that critically examined a range of possible contributory factors. From this assessment of the evidence, it reported that UK Government economic ‘austerity’ policies were the most likely contributory cause.  

A new paper published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health quantifies the scale of the ‘excess’ deaths. Compared to what previous trends predicted, an additional 335,000 deaths were observed across Scotland, England & Wales between 2012 and 2019.

330000 quote GB

Furthermore, among females living in the 20% most deprived areas of England, death rates increased by approximately 3% between 2010/12 and 2017/19 (i.e., prior to the COVID-19 pandemic), after having declined by around 14% in the previous decade. In Scotland, among the 20% most deprived population, rates of premature death increased by 6-7% among males and females (after previous decreases of 10-20%). 

The study provides further evidence of the health effects of UK government austerity policies and an urgent need for such policies to be reversed. 

Dr David Walsh, lead author of the paper and Public Health Programme Manager at the GCPH stated, “These figures are not only shocking but shameful. And we must remember that these are more than just statistics: they represent hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been cut short, and hundreds of thousands of families who have had to deal with the grief and aftermath of those deaths. The tragic thing is that these deaths did not have to happen. In the words of the United Nations, in a society as wealthy as the UK, ‘poverty is a political choice’. The UK Government needs to understand the damaging impact of austerity and respond with policies that put us back on the path of improving, not worsening, life expectancy for all.” 

Read the press release 

Access the paper ‘Bearing the burden of austerity: how do changing mortality rates in the UK compare between men and women? 

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