Sir Michael Marmot is insistent that economic inequality leads to health inequality. Well, OK, perhaps it does. Marmot also adamantly refuses to consider that health inequality leads to income inequality but that’s just something general to his world view rather than specific to this research.
What he’s telling us today is that the last decade has seen an increase in that health inequality. That there’s been a stalling of the expansion of lifespans too.
Marmot says the worsening of our health cannot be written off as the fault of individuals for living unhealthy lives. Their straitened circumstances and poor life chances are to blame. His institute’s work has established that healthy lives depend on early child development, education, employment and working conditions, an adequate income, and a healthy and sustainable community in which to live and work.
Austerity has taken its toll over the last 10 years in all of these areas, says Marmot in a foreword to the report. “From rising child poverty and the closure of children’s centres, to declines in education funding, an increase in precarious work and zero hours contracts, to a housing affordability crisis and a rise in homelessness, to people with insufficient money to lead a healthy life and resorting to food banks in large numbers, to ignored communities with poor conditions and little reason for hope … Austerity will cast a long shadow over the lives of the children born and growing up under its effects.”
His proof depends upon the idea that cuts in sure start centres for children born in, say, 2008, has led to changes in the lifespans of those born in, say, 1958, or 1948.
No, really. Peeps are dying now in their 60s and 70s because how they were brought up as toddlers mattered. That is his argument. But the influence of current austerity cannot be upon what happened those decades ago, can it? Thus there’s a certain lack of evidence for the link being made.
There is also that other point. Marmot blames inequality. Yet inequality has fallen since 2008. That is, Marmot is full of it, as he has been for some time on this point.