National & local government ignore scientific evidence that living in hardship on benefits damages health

This is from Taxpayers against Poverty

During the passage of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 I made this evidence available to Government and Opposition MPs and Peers.  It was used in the debates but belittled government. Dr Angela Donkin very helpfully prepared it for TAP.

We have repeatedly asked for research into the cumulative impact on health of freezing benefit increases, cutting housing and council tax benefits, and stopping incomes for one month, three months or three years and consequent debts.

National and local government ignore scientific evidence that living in hardship on benefits damages health.

Not having enough money impacts on health

Dr Angela Donkin, Deputy Director at the Institute of Health Equity

a. Homelessness. There were 280000 cases in 2014 (Fitzpatrick et al, 2015). The homeless are more likely to die at any age than housed contemporaries. They are 35 more times more likely to commit suicide and , twice as likely to get cancer (Burki, 2010). A national audit in 2010 found that 82% have at least one physical health problem and 72% have at least one mental health problem(Homeless Link, 2010).

b. Inability to heat homes or cook food, 10.4% of the population are in fuel poverty. There were 18, 200 excess winter deaths in 2013/14 (ONS, 2014a). In the 25% of coldest homes, there is a 20% increased risk of winter mortality than those in the warmest (Wilkinson et al, 2001). Also cold homes are linked to higher level of respiratory conditions, (Hajat et al, 2007)poor mental health, (Hopton & Hunt, 1996)and higher rates of cardiovascular disease (Mercer, 2003).

c. Food poverty A. Analyses of the national Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008/9- 2011/12 has found that lower income groups consume less protein, iron, fewer fruits and veg, less vitamin C, less fish, less oily fish, and less folate.For example, 39% of women and girls in the lowest income group are below LRNI for iron, compared with 12% in highest income group. Lack of iron can lead to lethargy, higher susceptibility to illness and infection, heart and lung complications. Pregnant women with anaemia have higher risk of complications before and after birth. 3 ;

d. Food Poverty B. Foods that are nutrient dense per calorie, are more expensive (Maillot, Ferguson, Drewnowski, & Darmon, 2008). Therefore people on low incomes will find it harder to buy the type of healthy diet for their children that we know we need to maintain a healthy weight – lean meat, fish and fruits and vegetables are relatively expensive forms of calories. The research has indeed shown that for any given level of energy intake, a lower consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with lower diet cost (Drewnowski, Monsivais, Maillot, & Darmon, 2007) and that at each level of energy intake, higher dietary energy density was associated with lower diet costs (Drewnowski, Darmon, & Briend, 2004). In addition, in deprived areas, there also tends to be a proliferation of fast food outlets which serve large portions of unhealthy food which can lead to high levels of temptation’.

e. Children. Children born into poverty suffer an increased risk of mortality in the first year of life and in adulthood, are more likely to be born early and small and they face more health problems in later life. Preventing low birth weight should be a priority for public health officials; however efforts to do this will be hampered if parents have insufficient incomes. If the life chances of children are to be fully considered then it should be recognized that life chances begin in the womb, and not at birth. (Wolfe et al, 2014)

f. Income Poverty and particularly debt increase the likelihood of mental disorders (Taylor, Pevalin and Todd, 2007), including sleep deprivation and depression among new mothers. The effects are particularly evident among women because they are more likely to handle family budgets, have caring responsibilities and are often the ‘shock absorbers’ of reduced family incomes, meaning that they go without to protect their children from the worst effects of poverty. (Glennerster et al 2009, Murray & Cooper 1997)Maternal depression is then, in itself, a significant risk factor for poor social and emotional development in children. (Petterson and Albers, 2001)


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