In response to the 2007/8 financial crisis and the subsequent ‘Great Recession’, the UK government pursued a policy of austerity, characterised by public spending cuts and reductions in working-age welfare benefits. This paper reports on a case study of the effects of this policy on local inequalities in mental health and wellbeing in the local authority of Stockton-on-Tees in the North East of England, an area with very high spatial and socio-economic inequalities. Follow-up findings from a prospective cohort study of the gap in mental health and wellbeing between the most and least deprived neighbourhoods of Stockton-on-Tees is presented. It is the first quantitative study to use primary data to intensively and longitudinally explore local inequalities in mental health and wellbeing during austerity and it also examines any changes in the underpinning social and behavioural determinants of health. Using a stratified random sampling technique, the data was analysed using linear mixed effects model (LMM) that explored any changes in the gap in mental health and wellbeing between people from the most and least deprived areas, alongside any changes in the material, psychosocial and behavioural determinants. The main findings are that the significant gap in mental health between the two areas remained constant over the 18-month study period, whilst there were no changes in the underlying determinants. These results may reflect our relatively short follow-up period or the fact that the cohort sample were older than the general population and pensioners in the UK have largely been protected from austerity. The study therefore potentially provides further empirical evidence to support assertions that social safety nets matter - particularly in times of economic upheaval.
Akhter, N., Bambra, C., Mattheys, K., Warren, J., & Kasim, A. (2018). Inequalities in mental health and well-being in a time of austerity: Follow-up findings from the Stockton-on-Tees cohort study. SSM - Population Health, 6, 75-84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2018.08.004