New research sheds light on increase in early deaths due to cost-of-living crisis

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The UK’s inflation-fuelled cost-of-living crisis is set to “cut lives short” and “significantly widen the wealth-health gap”. That’s according to a study published by the BMJ Public Health journal on 25 September.

Modelling conducted for the study predicted that the proportion of people “dying before their time” (under the age of 75) will rise by nearly 6.5% due to the sustained period of high prices. UK inflation unexpectedly slowed in August to 6.7% from a high of 11.1%, but remains the highest in the G7.

Cost of living: hitting the poorest hardest

Inevitably, the study forecast that the most deprived households will experience four times the number of extra deaths compared to the wealthiest households. The poorest will also have to spend a larger proportion of their income on energy.

The researchers studied the impact of inflation on death rates in Scotland in 2022-3. They then added analysis with and without cost-of-living mitigation measures such as government support to help cut household bills. The collected data was used to model various potential future outcomes on life expectancy and inequalities for the UK as a whole.

Without any mitigation measures, the model found that inflation could increase deaths by 5% in the least-deprived areas. That number shot up to 23% for the most deprived. However, it dropped to 2% and 8% respectively with mitigation.

The overall average was around 6.5%. Life expectancy would also fall in each case.

‘Insufficient’ public policies

The researchers said:

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The mortality impacts of inflation and real-terms income reduction are likely to be large and negative, with marked inequalities in how these are experienced.

They also added that:

Implemented public policy responses are not sufficient to protect health and prevent widening inequalities.

The BMJ Public Health study echoed findings from earlier in 2023 from the Resolution Foundation regarding the disproportionate impact on lower earners. It found that 65% of the poorest fifth of people were left with no savings at all. This was because they spent more on everyday costs such as food and housing than higher earners.

Those who were reliant on government support were the most affected, as successive Tory governments have repeatedly cut benefit rates in real terms. Likewise, polling commissioned by the BBC found that 32% of social housing tenants had fallen behind with utility bills in the previous six months during the cost of living crisis.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via the Canary

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