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Working Paper 134: The Impact of the Economic Downturn on Health in Wales: A Review and Case Study

Eva Elliott, Emily Harrop, Heather Rothwell, Michael Shepherd and Gareth Williams

The current economic downturn and the austerity measures currently being decided with regard to public spending are likely to impact on people’s lives in a number of different ways.   The test of how well political administrations respond to such crises will be the extent to which the health and well being of its populations are protected.  The lesson of previous downturns is that the social and associated health impacts can lag long after what can be a relatively short period of economic recession.  These effects can also be uneven and affect particular groups in the population and people living in particular places more than others. However in order for Governments, local authorities and services to respond appropriately we need to learn from the past whilst acknowledging the unique character of this particular social and economic crisis.  In South Wales people are still dealing with the emotional and physical wounds which are the legacy of rapid re-industrialisation in the 1980s and we need to be prepared this time round.  

This is report comprises a literature review of what is known about the health impact of past recessions and their aftermaths, a qualitative case study of perceived current and potential health impacts on relevant statutory and voluntary services in two contrasting local authority areas, and a policy dialogue to discuss the findings with a small group of policy makers and service leads with national and local responsibilities.

The report concludes with a number of broad recommendations to support and guide decisions at national and local government levels.    

Eva Elliott, Emily Harrop, Heather Rothwell, Michael Shepherd and Gareth Williams

Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, Cardiff Institute of Society and Health

November 2010

Working Paper 134: The Impact of the Economic Downturn on Health in Wales: A Review and Case Study, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, November (2010), ISBN 978-1-904815-97-6