Even minimal reduction in social welfare spending could lead to risks for public health, according to a recent study conducted by researchers.
An overview of spending in 15 European countries over a quarter of a century found that a cut of the equivalent of 100 dollars per person in social welfare budgets boosted alcohol-related deaths by 2.8 percent and cardiac-related fatalities by 1.2 percent.
"Social welfare" was defined as a panoply of expenditures, including health care, housing support, unemployment benefit, disability allowances, family support and help for job seekers.
The paper, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), evaluated Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data on spending and mortality in the 15 pre-enlargement EU countries from 1980-2005.
Every 100-dollar per-capita increase in social welfare led to a 1.19-percent fall in mortality from all causes, the authors found.
However, reducing spending on non-welfare sources, such as military and prisons, did not have a negative effect on public health.
The study, led by University of Oxford public health specialist David Stuckler, said public health was not just a narrow question of spending on healthcare itself.
"Children who receive a better education, have safe environments in which to play, and who live in good quality housing are more likely to grow up healthy than those who do not," it said.
"Adults in secure and safe employment, receiving wages above the level needed merely to survive, are less likely to adopt hazardous lifestyles (such as smoking, drinking or unhealthy diets) and can expect to live longer."