Austerity and health in Europe

Health Policy. 2013 Nov;113(1-2):13-9. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2013.09.005. Epub 2013 Sep 25.


Many European governments have abundantly cut down public expenditure on health during the financial crisis. Consequences of the financial downturn on health outcomes have begun to emerge. This recession has led to an increase in poor health status, raising rates of anxiety and depression among the economically vulnerable. In addition, the incidence of some communicable diseases along with the rate of suicide has increased significantly. The recession has also driven structural reforms, and affected the priority given to public policies. The purpose of this paper is to analyse how austerity impacts health in Europe and better understand the response of European health systems to the financial crisis. The current economic climate, while challenging, presents an opportunity for reforming and restructuring health promotion actions. More innovative approaches to health should be developed by health professionals and by those responsible for health management. In addition, scientists and experts in public health should promote evidence-based approaches to economic and public health recovery by analyzing the present economic downturn and previous crisis. However, it is governance and leadership that will mostly determine how well health systems are prepared to face the crisis and find ways to mitigate its effects.

Keywords: Austerity; Economic crisis; European health systems; Public health policies.

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Economic Recession*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Health Care Reform / economics
  • Health Care Reform / trends
  • Health Priorities
  • Health Promotion / economics
  • Health Promotion / trends
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Public Policy*