The Royal College of Physicians is reiterating calls for the government to do more to tackle health inequalities, while CIEH calls for strategic cross-government planning
The rising cost of living is damaging the health of the nation, according to a new survey from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), with 55% of British people blaming the crisis for their health deteriorating.
Of these, 84% cited increased heating costs, 78% blamed rising food bills, while 46% said transport costs were responsible for their health worsening. One-in-four were informed by a doctor or medical professional that rising prices were negatively impacting their health, with stress considered a driving factor for 16%.
“The cost of living crisis has barely begun so the fact that one in two people is already experiencing worsening health should sound alarm bells, especially at a time when our health service is under more pressure than ever before,” states Dr Andrew Goddard, President of the RCP and the BMJ.
Our health is shaped by our environment and the links between poor health and social factors are well-known says Goddard, who proposes an urgent cross-government approach to tackling the underlying causes of ill health to improve lives, protect the NHS and strengthen the economy. The government’s health disparities white paper, due this year, “must lay out plans for a concerted effort from the whole of government to reduce health inequality,” he adds.
The Inequalities in Health Alliance says such a strategy should commit to tackling known drivers of health inequality: poor housing; food quality; employment; discrimination; transport and air pollution.
“The cost of living crisis is damaging the perceived health and wellbeing of poorer people. The surprise is that people in above average income groups are affected, too.”
“This survey demonstrates that the cost of living crisis is damaging the perceived health and wellbeing of poorer people,” says Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity. “The surprise is that people in above average income groups are affected, too.”
Around 37% of people in higher income brackets said the crisis had a fairly negative impact on their health, a figure matched by those in lower socio-economic groups. However, 22% of those in the latter group said it had a very negative impact, compared to 16% of those with higher incomes.
Marmot cites a sufficient income as crucial because of its links to factors like housing and health behaviours. “If we require anything of government, at a minimum, it is to enable people to have the means to pursue a healthy life,” he says.
The government is providing £22bn-worth of support in 2022-23 to help families with rising costs, but many will still face forgoing essentials vital to healthy living or plunging into debt.
“The rising cost of living will have profound impacts on people’s health, especially if the crisis is prolonged over next winter. We may see higher excess winter deaths, especially if we have a cold winter and the cost of energy goes up again this Autumn, as expected,” states Tamara Sandoul, Policy and Campaigns Manager at CIEH.
“The cost of living crisis is likely to have the biggest impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We need to see strategic cross-government planning for the months ahead to ensure the drivers behind rising costs are tackled as well as emergency measures put in place to ensure the most vulnerable are protected.”
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