Higher levels of social spending are strongly associated with better health outcomes, according to a new study from RAND Europe.
The research report, “Are better health outcomes related to social expenditure,” explored the connection between social spending and health across the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) by assessing more than 30 years of data related to health outcomes and social expenditure.
Key findings from the study include:
The association between higher levels of social spending and better health outcomes was consistent across all 34 OECD countries, with this link strengthening over time.
The association between higher social spending and better health outcomes was observed most strongly in countries with greater levels of income inequality, meaning that social protection may be more important for health outcomes in more unequal societies.
There were variations in the relationship with health outcomes of different social programmes. For example, spending on old-age programmes demonstrated the strongest association, with better health outcomes including areas not related to advanced age, such as infant mortality and low birth weight.
The relationship between social spending and health outcomes held when looking at regional differences within the United States.
Countries with higher levels of interpersonal trust in others tend to have both higher levels of social spending and better health outcomes.
In recent years, in particular in the aftermath of recent financial and economic problems, economic and political pressures have led to reductions in social spending. The study lends support to suggestions that national governments reconsider their social spending and its balance with health care spending.