Views & Reviews Review

Warning: austerity can seriously damage your health

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3659 (Published 10 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3659
  1. David McCoy, senior clinical lecturer in global health, Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Queen Mary University London
  1. d.mccoy{at}ucl.ac.uk

Some countries have followed less austere policies and seem to have fared better in social outcomes. David McCoy is persuaded by the epidemiology in this book and concludes that economic policy is too important to be left to economists

That austerity kills should come as no surprise when reading David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu’s book on the effects of the current great recession on population health. Unemployment, homelessness, and healthcare cuts—direct consequences of austerity—will inevitably increase mortality and suffering. Likewise for alcoholism and drug use, which are indirect consequences of austerity.

The Body Economic presents a readable but depressing account of the tragedy unfolding in many parts of the world today. Lives have been blighted, firstly, by the scandalous failure of politicians to regulate banks and finance capital, and, secondly, by them imposing the cost of bailing out the financial and banking sectors on the backs of millions of ordinary citizens. It’s not the first time this has happened. The debt burden incurred by African countries in the 1980s and 1990s, a result of bad and corrupt lending by banks, resulted in millions of deaths.

But Stuckler and Basu take their argument a step further. They argue that austerity also fails to …

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