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July 25, 2023

UBI as a public health measure

One might hope that if our economy eventually shifts from being GDP obsessed and becomes more focused on wellbeing, the Universal Basic Income, in some shape or other, would find a home. Critics of the concept always claim it is unaffordable and argue that it undermines the very nature of work. But these arguments have never addressed the impact of AI on the labour market nor do they consider the actual savings (as opposed to costs) that a basic income would generate. Revealing research from the NIHR that conceptualises universal basic income as a public health measure. 


New research funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research (NIHR) has found that a Basic Income scheme could potentially save the NHS tens of billions of pounds.

‘Treating causes not symptoms: Basic Income as a public health measure’ uses a range of economic and health modelling, public opinion surveys and community consultation to present cutting-edge evidence on the impact of Basic Income schemes.

Economic impact: 

  • Even a more ‘modest’ basic income scheme (£75 a week, £3,900 a year) would reduce child poverty to the lowest level since comparable records began in 1961 and achieve more at significantly less cost than the anti-poverty interventions of the New Labour governments. 
  • Child and pensioner poverty down by at least 60% each
  • Working age poverty down by between 29% and 75% depending on the scheme
  • Inequality down 55% to the lowest in the world under the most ambitious scheme

Public health impact: 

  • Between 125,000 and 1 million cases of depressive disorders could be prevented or postponed.
  • Between 120,000 and 1.04 million cases of clinically significant physical health symptoms could be prevented or postponed.
  • Between 130,000 and 655,000 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) could be gained, valued at between £3.9 billion and £19.7 billion.
  • Based on depressive disorders alone, NHS and personal social services cost savings in 2023 of between £125 million and £1.03 billion assuming 50% of cases diagnosed and treated.