Bearing the burden of austerity: how do changing mortality rates in the UK compare between men and women?

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Background Mortality rates across the UK stopped improving in the early 2010s, largely attributable to UK Government's austerity' policies. Such policies are thought to disproportionately affect women in terms of greater financial impact and loss of services. The aim here was to investigate whether the mortality impact of austerity - in terms of when rates changed and the scale of excess deaths - has also been worse for women. Methods All-cause mortality data by sex, age, Great Britain (GB) nation and deprivation quintile were obtained from national agencies. Trends in age-standardised mortality rates were calculated, and segmented regression analyses used to identify break points between 1981 and 2019. Excess deaths were calculated for 2012-2019 based on comparison of observed deaths with numbers predicted by the linear trend for 1981-2011. Results Changes in trends were observed for both men and women, especially for those living in the 20% most deprived areas. In those areas, mortality increased between 2010/2012 and 2017/2019 among women but not men. Break points in trends occurred at similar time points. Approximately 335 000 more deaths occurred between 2012 and 2019 than was expected based on previous trends, with the excess greater among men. Conclusions It remains unclear whether there are sex differences in UK austerity-related health effects. Nonetheless, this study provides further evidence of adverse trends in the UK and the associated scale of excess deaths. There is a clear need for such policies to be reversed, and for policies to be implemented to protect the most vulnerable in society.




Walsh, D., Dundas, R., McCartney, G., Gibson, M., & Seaman, R. (2022). Bearing the burden of austerity: how do changing mortality rates in the UK compare between men and women? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 76(12), 1027–1033.

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