More than 300,000 deaths have been attributed to Tory austerity policies that slashed billions of pounds from social security payments and public services.

Scots researchers have calculated that between 2012-2019, almost 335,000 more people died than would have been expected across the UK based on previous trends between 1981 and 2011.

The analysis, led by Glasgow Centre for Population Health and the University of Glasgow, adds to the existing evidence of a worrying stagnation of improvements in life expectancy since the early 2010s.

However, it is the first to quantify the effects of austerity policies implemented by the UK Government in 2010 on excess death rates. In Scotland, around 20,000 more deaths than expected occurred.

Without support, researchers said, "people have been dragged under by decreased income, poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health and social isolation – ultimately leading to premature death."

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The researchers were trying to establish if women were more adversely affected overall and the study produced mixed results.

More than a one third of those who died were under the age of 65 and the majority (66% in Scotland) were men.

Expressed as the percentage of the total ‘observed’ deaths, the excess was 9.0% and 3.7% for males and females respectively in England & Wales, with the equivalent figures for Scotland being 4.0% and 2.6%. Changes were seen in just about every cause of death.

However, in the 20% most deprived areas, mortality rates rose to a greater degree among women.

Cuts to social security payments and eligibility, as well as services, have been shown in a number of analyses to affect women more than men.

This is said to be because women make up the majority of social security recipients in the UK while some individual social security cuts have disproportionately affected particular groups which are predominantly female including lone parents and single pensioners.

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Women are also more likely to be poorer and on lower incomes due to inequalities in the labour market and in the division of caring responsibilities. 

Dr David Walsh, said: "The overall message is that irrespective of gender there has been this horrific change and the additional number of deaths are about a third more than we had from Covid.

"Given what is happening at the moment with the UK Government considering more restrictions on social security it is obviously important that we learn what previous restrictions have done as the effects have been calamitous.

"Not only should we not be having further restrictions to social security but there is a need to reverse what has been done to try to protect the income and therefore the health of the poorest in society."

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He said there was quite a lot evidence that showed that austerity may have contributed to a rise in drug deaths in Scotland.

He said: "Although they were already going up, around about 2012 they increased massively. If you have a population with drugs issues and you take away their income, they will seek oblivion."

The study authors said comparisons of projected and observed rates are subject to a number of uncertainties, and
"thus we must be cautious in our interpretation of the precise figures".

However they said the figures were likely to be a conservative estimate of the number of excess deaths.

Co-author Prof Ruth Dundas, Professor of Social Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow said: “This study shows that in the UK a great many more deaths are likely to have been caused by UK Government economic policy than by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"We need to reverse the austerity policies and protect the income, and therefore the health, of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”