Health impact of the economic crisis varies across countries and population sub-groups within countries. There is now an extensive volume of research from earlier recessions showing that the fiscal response of a country to recession – the extent to which it chooses to follow a path of austerity rather than one of countercyclical spending – and the presence of effective social safety nets affect the magnitude of the risk of ill health.

As health needs are likely to increase with increase in unemployment and fall in household incomes, the policies introduced in response to fiscal tightening may have an added effect on population health. Thus, if some services have insufficient capacity to respond to increased need for treatment or experience cutbacks, there may be additional costs (financial and human) as a consequence of patients failing to obtain timely and effective care.

Quantifying the health effects of the current crisis has been difficult due to lack of timely and relevant data on health status. In some countries even the most basic mortality data are several years old, making it nearly impossible to draw up to date conclusions on the effect of crisis on health. Moreover, there are few data on morbidity and health care utilisation and the available data are rarely internationally comparable. However, most immediate consequences are already visible, particularly in the countries most affected by the crisis. For evidence on different areas of the impact on health see relevant subsections or search the resource database.