New English disability benefit assessments 'impacting mental health'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

Introducing more stringent tests to assess eligibility for disability benefits in England has had a negative impact on the mental health of those concerned, according to research.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study analysed the numbers of disability assessments carried out in 149 local authorities in England between 2004 and 2013.

“The introduction of tougher disability benefit assessments in England may have taken a serious toll on mental health, according to a new study.“

It was found that between 2010 and 2013, 1.03 million people claiming disability benefit were reassessed using the Work Capability Assessment, with a higher proportion of people living in areas of deprivation being subject to the test.

The researchers estimated that there were around six extra suicides, 2,700 more cases of mental ill health,and an extra 7,020 prescriptions for individual antidepressants for every 10,000 people reassessed during this period.

This adds up to a total of 590 additional suicides, 279,000 extra cases of mental ill health and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants across the country as a whole associated with the reassessment policy between 2010 and 2013.

"It is likely that targeting the people living in the most vulnerable conditions with policies that are harmful to health will further marginalise already excluded groups, reducing rather than increasing their independence," the report concluded.

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