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Is austerity really bad for our mental health?

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills by Sanjay Basu and David Stuckler. Published by Allen Lane on May 21, 2013, Hardback, priced �20.

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills by Sanjay Basu and David Stuckler. Published by Allen Lane on May 21, 2013, Hardback, priced �20.

A NEW book by leading political economist David Stuckler and physician Sanjay Basu reveals ground-breaking research that argues austerity is seriously bad for our health.

The global financial crisis has had a seismic impact upon the wealth of nations. But to date we have had little sense of how it affects our health. In The Body Economic, due out on 21st May, the authors expose a number of shocking findings that demonstrate the human cost of austerity – with hard data from the Great Depression of the 1930s, to post-communist Russia and the current recessions in the UK, Europe and the US.

Drawing on their own decade-long research, Stuckler and Basu argue that during the worst economic disasters, negative public health effects do not need to be inevitable. They reveal how it is entirely possible to prevent financial crises from becoming epidemics – but only if communities and their governments respond effectively to the challenges of debt and market turmoil.

David Stuckler explains: “Austerity is having a devastating effect on health in Europe and North America. 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, among others. Our politicians need to take into account the serious – and in some cases profound – health consequences of economic choices. But so far, Europe’s leaders have been in denial of the evidence that austerity is costing lives.”

According to Stuckler and Basu, the effects of austerity measures vs stimulus have been far-reaching. The proof lies in the research:

l More than 10,000 suicides, corresponding to as many as 1 million cases of depression, about a 10% rise on average has resulted from the Great Recession and austerity across Europe and North America

l HIV has risen in Greece by 1500% since 2011, driven by increasing injection drug-use in the context of a 50% youth unemployment rate - just as HIV prevention budgets have been slashed

l More than 10,000 UK families have been pushed into homelessness, a 25% increase, by the UK Coalition government’s austerity budget

l Since 2008, Icelandic men have experienced no significant rise in depressive disorders, despite the country experiencing the largest banking crisis in world history

l Greece experienced its first malaria outbreak in decades following budget cuts to mosquito-spraying programs

l UK National Health Service reforms have coincided with a record drop in public satisfaction from over 70% approval to 58%

l Each £1 invested in key public health programs boosts economic growth in Europe by about £3 on average

Sanjay Basu also comments: “Ultimately what we show is that worsening health is not an inevitable consequence of economic recessions. It’s a political choice. Austerity is bad for your health – but there is another way. ”

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills by Sanjay Basu and David Stuckler. Published by Allen Lane on May 21, 2013, Hardback, priced £20.

 

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