Economic difficulties and related austerity programs are doing serious damage to the world's health, a new book released this week by two renowned professors confirms. David Stuckler, a political economist from Oxford University and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University, have spent the last decade documenting how the economy can change the health of a nation.
The economic crises of the last decade have increased depression and anxiety and reduced access and funding to many health care initiatives. These initiatives include HIV research and medical availability. Stuckler and Basu have published their findings in "The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills."
According to the book, in Europe alone, over 10,000 suicides and close to one million incidents of depression can be directly correlated to the recent economic downturn. Beyond mental health, physical well-being is also being harmed, due to cost-cutting across the board. A recent budget cut to Italy's mosquito-spraying program has resulted in an upturn in malaria cases across the country.
In the text, Stuckler and Basu did not limit their research to statistics from the last decade. They have gone back and examined events such as the Great Depression of the 1930s in America, and the adverse health outcomes that economic issues had on citizens of post-Communist Russia. They believe that if a country responds quickly to an economic downturn, and manages programs, the country still has the ability to thrive.
The authors' research indicates that countries with a more standardized health system and financial structure tend to survive these crisis moments more easily. Countries whose economies see a greater divide between rich and poor react adversely during times of crisis. According to the book's authors, "people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public well being need not be sacrificed for fiscal health."