Experts say that government cuts in social care spending – including on unemployment benefits and disability – can have a significant impact on health.
Despite ministers thinking they are doing the right thing by protecting NHS funds, it is just as important, if not more so, to maintain social welfare spending, they said.
David Stuckler, from the University of Oxford, says that every £70 cut in social welfare spending per person raises alcohol-related deaths by about 2.8%. Deaths from heart disease also rise by 1.2%, according to their research.
Every year in the UK there are currently around 200,000 deaths from heart disease and around 9,000 deaths caused by alcohol.
The study follows the government’s Budget cuts to tax credits for families earning more than £40,000, and to housing benefit.
The welfare cuts, which should save £11bn by 2014/15, also see the health in pregnancy grant abolished from April 2011.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the researchers suggested that protecting just NHS spending was short-sighted.
“What little discussion there has been about health in the current economic recession has focused on whether to ringfence NHS spending.
“This is a narrow perspective given the extensive evidence that population health is not only determined by healthcare expenditure but by many factors outside the health system.”
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