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Sabine Israel

This chapter adopts a transnational perspective to assess the health consequences of the Great Recession and its austerity policies for the population in the European peripheral countries. Physical, psycho-social and medical health determinants which commonly cause ill health among people with low income will be portrayed to expose the advance of adverse social conditions. The analysis is carried out by comparing EU-SILC data for the five countries subject to the Economic Adjustment Programme and the three Eastern European countries subject to the Balance of Payment Programme from 2006/2007 to 2011/2012. We find that deprivation, arrears and access to healthcare are worsening in the majority of the peripheral countries. The BoP countries Latvia and Romania display increased barriers to healthcare, while mortgage problems are turning into a problem in Ireland and Greece. Moreover, deprivation affected more than three-fifths of the population in Greece, Hungary and Latvia in 2011/2012. While the sharpest increase of adverse social determinants takes place in the lower income quintiles, the risk of self-perceived ill health for the poorest is overlapping with – and often even below – that of the second and third income quintiles, bringing the social gradient in health to its demise. Next to an improvement in the relative feeling of deprivation for the poorest, means-tested exemptions from payments of services such as healthcare can be a reason for this trend. They shift the cost burden towards higher income quintiles, putting pressure on the ‘twilight zone’ between the poor and the non-poor.