Austerity: from Portugal proof that it's bad for your health.


European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Olli Rehn (R) attends a press conference accompanied by the Portuguese finance minister, Vitor Gaspar (L) at S. Bento Palace, in Lisbon, on March 14, 2012. Portugal is swallowing the EU's austerity medicine in return for loans. It seems that medicine is not helping individual patients using the country's health system.



This is a story I've been expecting to see for some time coming out of the U.S. and my thanks to The Guardian's Giles Tremlett for finding it in Portugal. Clearly the economic situation in the West since 2008 - crash followed by government imposed austerity measures - has been having a terrible effect on many folks' mental and physical well-being.

Now in Portugal comes a very specific set of data showing how devastating things are.

As part of budget tightening austerity measures charges in the country's health system went up in January. Deaths in February were up 20 percent - around 1,000 people. The increased charges are the reason, according to opposition politicians. It's the flu and an unseasonably cold month that's to blame, says the government.

It is likely to be a mix of the two - statistics are a reduction of reality, not reality itself.

But, these numbers point to what I think is the beginning of a trend. People throughout the West who have been caught in the economic flood - particularly those over 55 who have been laid off in their peak earning years and forced to devour their retirement savings to keep going - are likely to develop health problems from the stress and either not be able to afford to get medical help, or who will simply ignore symptoms in the hope that they don't outlive their savings and become a burden to their children.

The prediction here is that death rates will be going up in America and Europe in the future.

Anyone want to bet that starting in the next decade there will be stories about life expectancies in the U.S. and America coming down?