The Body Economic

The Body Economic

Why Austerity Kills : Recessions, Budget Battles, and the Politics of Life and Death

Book - 2013
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Baker & Taylor
Two public health researchers prove that the recent economic crises around the world have had calamitous effects on people's health, citing increases in suicide rates, HIV transmissions, alcohol abuse and heart disease during times of bad fiscal policy.

Perseus Publishing
Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human healthand have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu reveal in this provocative book, is that many countries have turned their recessions into veritable epidemics, ruining or extinguishing thousands of lives in a misguided attempt to balance budgets and shore up financial markets. Yet sound alternative policies could instead help improve economies and protect public health at the same time.

In The Body Economic, Stuckler and Basu mine data from around the globe and throughout history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. In a series of historical case studies stretching from 1930s America, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., Stuckler and Basu reveal that governmental mismanagement of financial strife has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, from suicides to HIV infections. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public wellbeing need not be sacrificed for fiscal health.

Full of shocking and counterintuitive revelations and bold policy recommendations,The Body Economic offers an alternative to austerityone that will prevent widespread suffering, both now and in the future.

Book News
Public health experts Stuckler (Oxford U.) and Basu (Stanford U.) treat the health effects of the recent Great Recession as an experiment in which Americans served as unwitting guinea pigs. They examine historical and global evidence for the effects on health of such economic crises and the political responses to them. Their conclusion: austerity measures that cut health care services rather than recession per se pose the real threat to public health. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Two public health researchers prove that the recent economic crises around the world have had calamitous effects on people's health, citing increases in suicide rates, HIV transmissions, and heart disease during times of bad fiscal policy.

Publisher: New York : Basic Books, 2013
ISBN: 9780465063987
Branch Call Number: 338.43362 St939b 2013
Characteristics: xxi, 216 p. ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Basu, Sanjay


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redban Aug 27, 2014

So clear and relevant, very insightful read. Completely agree with StarGladiator, this book's strength is in the effects of austerity on healthcare, but the socioeconomic roots of austerity is outside the book's scope, outside the authors' expertise, and must be explored elsewhere. This is merely an important piece to the puzzle.

Apr 23, 2014

Read this book along with Nomi Prins' All The Presidents' Bankers and Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Forewarned is forearmed.

Mar 23, 2014

These gentlemen write an excellent book, but due to shortcomings on the financial/economic end, they sadly don't fully grasp what MUST be grasped to understand the status quo: the banksters and their lackeys make tremendous profit from the status quo (especially in America and the UK) which is namely ignoring the two greatest cost drivers in healthcare - - the private equity/leveraged buyouts across the entire healthcare sector, and the hedge funds' speculation across the entire healthcare sector - - until these external cost drivers of the private health insurance sector are both recognized and understood, we will never make any progress!

Aug 24, 2013

This book was cited and profiled by Dr. Richard Wolff in his weekly program, Economic Update, which can be heard via the website, here:

Jul 30, 2013

Excellent. So clearly written.


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