Millions of older adults to face health poverty
19 October 2022
The rising costs of living will result in millions of older adults experiencing health poverty, new research by two of the University’s academics reveals.
The results showed the Minimum Income for Healthy Living (MIHL) for older single adults is now £11.83 per week more than Pension Credit amounts.
Progress in closing the gap between the MIHL and Pension Credit has been reversed by the rising costs of living. In April 2021 the MIHL was £5.57 per week below Person Credit levels.
The new research, in the journal Public Health, is co-authored by Dr Paul Watts, senior lecturer in public health in the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, and Professor Gopal Netuveli of the Institute for Connected Communities at the University of East London.
The researchers say some older adults will be forced to make spending choices that may impact their health, for example choosing between heating, healthier foods or social activities.
Prime Minister Liz Truss said yesterday she was 'completely committed' to the triple lock on pensions, meaning that millions of people claiming the state pension could receive a 10.1% increase in payments from April 2023. However, the Government has yet to officially confirm this, and whether benefit payments like Pension Credit will rise by the same amount.
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for people on low income, with more than 1.4 million people receiving Pension Credit and nearly a million more eligible who currently do not claim it.
The paper 'Costs of healthy living for older adults: the need for dynamic measures of health-related poverty to support evidence-informed policy-making and real-time decision-making' examines how adults over the age of 65 are disproportionately impacted due to the steep increases in food and energy prices, which constitute a large proportion of the income older adults require for healthy living.
The cost of living crisis is likely to push many older adults into health-related poverty, and for some, this will be for the first time in their lives.
In the paper, Dr Watts concludes,
There is a need for dynamic measures of health-related poverty to support evidence-informed policy-making and real-time decision-making to mitigate the health impacts on older adults. Older adults whose income falls below the MIHL are at a greater risk of poorer health outcomes, including frailty.
“Dynamic measures can make the best use of current economic and health datasets to inform policies and interventions that are responsive to changes in the cost of living. These measures can also help older adults understand how their budgets will be affected and the forms of support available”.
Paul adds that the current crisis highlights that changes to the cost of healthy living do not fit conveniently within the timing of government budget cycles or long-term strategies to reduce health inequalities.
In the United Kingdom, increases in the State Pension and Pension Credit for older adults on low incomes are typically calculated annually, many months in advance. For example, the April 2022 increases in Pension Credit were announced in November 2021 before many prices started rising.
Indeed, Office for National Statistics data show that the proportion of adults aged 70 or over who report increased monthly costs rose from 71 per cent in November 2021 to 89 per cent in April 2022.
The MIHL takes into account various factors including diet/nutrition, physical activity, housing, healthcare, psychosocial relations/social inclusion, hygiene and clothing.
You can view the paper and results here.
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