In this week’s blog, we are looking at whether Brexit has had an impact on health.

It’s been a strange couple of years (well almost three!), since that fateful vote in 2016 when the good citizens of the UK took to the polling booths, for a referendum, that was to change the course of British history.

We are speaking about Brexit of course, and that glib opportunity to decide whether we wished to remain in, or exit, the European Union.

A lot has happened since then (or not, if you are thinking about world trade deals being secured, but that’s another story). We’ve had countless debates in parliament, thousands of Vox Pop interviews on the MSM, various groups set up in support of, or to challenge the outcome, and a General Election!

We’ve also seen families falling out because they have differing views, keyboard warriors arguing with people they don’t know on social media, a rise in racially motivated hate crime and most shockingly of all, the death of an MP . (Although to be technically accurate, this happened one week before the Brexit vote, and Jo Cox’s death is considered the result of a rise in right-wing extremism triggered by the referendum).

So, with all this negativity and ill feeling around, what kind of impact has Brexit had on our health? This is both in an individual, physical sense and in the concept of the health of nation going forward, post-Brexit. Here at Your Wellspace we thought we’d exam some of the evidence and let you decide. Want to find out more? Read on…

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What do the Doctors Say about Brexit?

In June 2018, Dr William Sapwell proposed a motion for Britain to remain within the single market and for the public to have a final say (People’s vote), stating that: ‘Britain is woefully underprepared’ for Brexit and that ‘Brexit is bad for Britain’s health’.

The British Medical Association (BMA), passed the motion at their annual meeting.

Furthermore, Dr John Chisholm from the BMA medical ethics committee, told delegates at the meeting that ‘Brexit was a disastrous act of self-harm’ and that the EU played an important part in the NHS and medical science for the U.K, including research and development.

And even doing one quick search on the BMA’s extensive website reveals literally hundreds of papers berating the impact of Brexit on areas such as recruitment and challenges to the workforce, particularly in the event of a ‘no deal’ and the fast-approaching deadline of March 29th.

What are the Impacts of Brexit on Health?

The figures around recruitment and retention are particularly staggering. This is largely due to both the NHS and the Social Care Sector relying heavily on EU workers to fulfil the vacancies in an area that, thanks to an ageing population, is expanding exponentially.

In an article by the Kings Fund updated earlier this month, there is a current shortage of 100,000 staff across the NHS trusts and 110,000 in social care.

It goes on to say that the U.K has a higher proportion of working doctors who qualified abroad than almost any other EU country with the exception of Ireland and Norway. Also, the number of nurses and midwives joining the profession has dropped dramatically since the referendum.

Add this to the reported potential shortage or delay of medicines and supplies and it is quite clear that the medical profession is particularly unhappy about the Brexit situation.

Has Brexit had an Impact on Physical Health?

All of this is so far looks at the impact on health on a wider scale. But what about the impact on our immediate physical health?

The figures show that 1 in 4 people will suffer a mental healthissue at least once during a twelve month period, with almost 8 out of 100 being diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depression.

Although the figures confirming any link to Brexit are hard to come by, there is a link between mental health problems being associated with increased use of social media. In addition, the link between anxiety, depression and discriminationhas been confirmed, particularly amongst ethnic minority groups and the LGBTQ community.

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Furthermore, since the Brexit referendum, the spike in hate crimes against minority groups has risen sharply, especially against those from racial minorities; and mental health issues such as general anxiety disorder, panic attacks, depression and suicidal ideation are on the increase.

Another impact on poor mental health that could be linked to Brexit is the uncertainty of jobs currently and people worrying about what they are going to do post Brexit with regards to the availability of regular medication, again influencing mental health.

And although there is no direct correlating evidence, much of these issues would suggest that Brexit has had an impact on our health and wellbeing.

How Can We Mitigate the Impact of Brexit on Health?

It seems that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety associated with Brexit, be it through discrimination or stress and anxiety associated with the uncertainty of the outcome of what life will be like after the U.K is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29th.

One way of dealing with this is to offer support to colleagues who may be feeling under pressure, or talking to peers who you may suspect are the victims of workplace harassment.

Furthermore, if you work in HR or you are the owner of a company and you wish to do something on a particularly pro-active level, creating a positive workplace culture is one step you could consider ensuring you place emphasis on the importance of employee health and wellbeing.

Contact us

We have an expert team of wellbeing professionals who will be delighted to chat with you and offer guidance surrounding an issue that will inevitably take place at some time or other within your organisation!

So, if you want to learn more about the impact Brexit has had on our health, or you are interested in how Wellspace can help you to create a positive workplace culture, you can contact us here for more information, or if you prefer, call us on 0808 178 0748.