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Thursday 18 September 2014

Austerity sparks rise in health problems

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 27/03/2013 | 05:00

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Austerity is bad for your health, according to a new study. It reveals that there is evidence in some countries of increased rates of suicide and mental-health problems related to an economic downturn.

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Rises in health problems were a worry because they increased the financial burden on households, the report, published in the 'Lancet' medical journal, warned.

The research, led by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, which looked at austerity and financial crisis, is part of a series of papers by the journal on the health of Europe.

The report, presented in London by Belfast-born Prof Martin McKee, said effects of economic turbulence on health were poorly understood, despite having been researched for nearly 100 years. It said the vulnerable people were those in countries facing the largest cuts to public budgets and increasing unemployment.

"Both job loss and fear of job loss have adverse effects on mental health, and income reduction, growing healthcare costs, and cuts in services prevent patients from accessing care in time," it said.

"Such effects have been noted in Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

"In Ireland, which was also bailed out by the troika, the health effects are unclear so far, but health coverage for patients older than 70 years has been reduced; prescription charges have been introduced for low-income households; and dentistry benefits have been reduced; all of which will probably affect access to care," the report said.

The report points to Iceland as an exception and says although it was one of the first European countries to be hit by financial crisis it rejected austerity and the evidence was that there have been few adverse effects on the health of its people.

Irish Independent

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