The report doesn't only detail the impact of austerity, but raises the prospect of long-term consequences far beyond what we have seen thus farby Chaminda Jayanetti / February 27, 2020 / Leave a comment
It did what people said it would do. “Austerity blamed for life expectancy stalling for first time in century” the Guardian headline rang out in response to Sir Michael Marmot’s review of his 2010 report into health inequalities.
No anti-austerity campaigner was surprised to find the ten-year slashing of public spending had taken its human toll, but it was useful to have it set out so clearly.
Marmot’s report sets out the evidence that socioeconomic status is closely linked to life expectancy, health and disability. It found that health inequalities have widened since 2010, with life expectancy for the poorest women actually going into reverse, particularly in Northern England. Early mortality is rising among certain age groups.
In housing, in employment, in neighbourhoods, public policy is making people stressed, depressed, malnourished and ill. It represents a total failure of politicians—to listen, to learn, or to have any concern at all.
“This damage to the nation’s health need not have happened,” said Marmot. “Austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health, and it is likely to continue to do so.”
The report also puts into perspective the row over whether 120,000 people have or have not died because of austerity. This debate now looks woefully irrelevant—a distraction from the fundamental point that people have died as a result of austerity, and that those deaths were both predictable and predicted.
“If the Tories had actually killed 120,000 people do these guys really think lots of us would still support them?” asked the right-wing columnist Ed West earlier this month. Well, no. Instead, right-wing politicos and propagandists will engage in denial, deflection and distraction. ‘Can you prove that number’s right?’ ‘Have you established causation beyond all possible doubt?’ ‘Didn’t that researcher once tweet a left-wing opinion some time in 2013?’
No, you cannot establish causation beyond all possible doubt. This isn’t war: to precisely calculate austerity’s death toll would require investigation of the cause of death of every mortality in Britain, and then following the chain of causation back each time. It is an impossible task.
But we know that austerity has certain consequences and that poor health is among them. It is not simply the funding squeeze in the NHS itself—which Marmot does not focus on. It is…