Policy makers need to ‘take heed of early warning signs’ and end health service austerity, experts have suggested.
This comes as improvements to mortality rates and life expectancy have slowed across Europe, with the UK particularly badly affected.
The International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) looked at the impact of economic austerity on health outcomes across Europe during the austerity years 2009-13, using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Eurostat and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It found that compared to the preceeding period (2004-08) improvements to mortality rates fell by 63% in the UK and 26% across Europe.
Progress in life expectancy stalled during the same period in the UK, whilst remaining stable in Europe as a whole.
Meanwhile, Europeans aged 15-24 said their levels of subjective health have fallen, while all age groups in the UK reported the same.
George Holley-Moore, research and policy manager at ILC-UK, said: ‘This study paints a mixed picture, with some worrying health outcomes such as a fall in subjective health here in the UK, as well as a reduction in prevention spending and rise in unmet medical needs across Europe.
‘But with ageing populations and increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, European health systems do not need stagnation, they need continual improvement. If the best austerity can offer is health systems that are just about treading water, that will not be enough to meet the immense challenges of increased longevity.
‘We should take heed of these early warning signs and initiate measures to protect our future health.’
It comes as senior doctors have argued that investing in preventative medicine could considerably reduce GPs’ workload and costs to the NHS in general, because many conditions such as diabetes 2, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis could be prevented by simply following good lifestyle principles.