Responding to findings of a survey by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) highlighting the impact of the cost of living crisis on health, Katherine Merrifield, Assistant Director for Healthy Lives at the Health Foundation, said:
‘The events of the last two years have taken an enduring toll on the nation’s health. The gap in healthy life expectancy between the wealthiest and the poorest has widened. Those facing the greatest hardship can on average expect to live shorter, less healthy lives. Today’s findings underscore that the cost of living crisis now threatens to further erode people’s health. Many more families will have to choose between forgoing essentials that are vital to living healthy lives – such as food and heating – or being driven into the stress and uncertainty of problem debt.
‘The government needs to get a hold on the crisis. Recent decisions suggest they are yet to fully grasp the pandemic’s stark lesson that health and wealth are fundamentally intertwined. We need urgent action, on benefits to protect people in the here-and-now, but also to build greater resilience against future threats to our health by investing in areas that support health, including housing, education and transport. The government’s ‘levelling up’ plan promises to increase healthy life expectancy by five years, but our analysis reveals that, even based on pre-pandemic trends, this would take nearly two centuries (192 years) to achieve. The awaited Health Disparities White Paper must show that government is now willing to take the coordinated action needed, putting health at the heart of every major policy decision.’