The number of early deaths could increase by almost 6.5% due to the cost of living crisis in the United Kingdom, hit by persistent inflation, according to a study published Monday September 25 in the journal BMJ. This crisis “risks shortening lives and significantly widening wealth and health gaps” between the rich and the poor in the United Kingdom, according to projections from this study. The proportion of people dying under the age of 75 is expected to increase by almost 6.5%. The most disadvantaged households will be hit four times more than advantaged households, according to this research.
The researchers point to inflation, which is at “levels not seen since the 1970s.” It stood at 6.7% year-on-year in August, down slightly compared to the previous month and the lowest since February 2022, but it remains the highest of the G7 countries. “The poorest households have paid the price, as they spend a larger share of their income on energy, the cost of which has skyrocketed,” the study reads.
Researchers assessed the impact of inflation on mortality rates in Scotland in 2022-23 by assessing different scenarios, with and without government measures to alleviate this cost of living crisis, including helping households facing energy costs. Without any mitigation measures, inflation could increase early deaths by 5% in the least deprived areas and by 23% in the most deprived, according to researchers' projections. With the government's measures, inflation leads to an increase in early deaths of 2% and 8% respectively.
The researchers worked on Scotland, but assure that “similar effects are likely” across the United Kingdom, because they “modeled the impact of measures taken by the British government”. “Our analysis helps demonstrate that the economy has an impact on population health,” the researchers conclude. “Since 2012, economic conditions in the UK have led to a decline in life expectancy and widened health inequalities.”
Studies showing the extent of the consequences of this crisis are multiplying. According to a study by the Resolution Foundation think tank published at the beginning of September, the British risk having experienced in a few years the worst fall in living standards since “at least the 1950s”. In June, a University of Sussex study showed that being hungry had become “the new normal” for millions of Britons.