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  • 19 March 2024
  • 3 min read

The Impact of Poverty on Health: A Nursing Perspective in the UK

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"Nurses play a vital role in addressing the health needs of individuals affected by poverty."

Drawing from statistics and her own personal experiences, Adult Nurse, Amira, discusses how poverty negatively impacts both health and healthcare, and muses on possible solutions.


In the United Kingdom, poverty remains a pressing issue that significantly affects individuals' health and well-being. As frontline healthcare providers, nurses play a crucial role in understanding and addressing the complex interplay between poverty and health outcomes. This article explores the impact of poverty on health in the UK context, drawing on up-to-date statistics and offering insights for nursing practice.

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The Burden of Poverty on Health

Poverty encompasses various socioeconomic factors, including low income, inadequate housing, food insecurity, and limited access to education and healthcare. These factors contribute to a myriad of health disparities and inequalities among individuals living in poverty. According to recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), approximately 14.5 million people in the UK were living in poverty in 2023, with rates disproportionately affecting children and minority populations.

Health Consequences of Poverty

Individuals experiencing poverty are at higher risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders.

Limited financial resources often lead to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, including poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and substance abuse.

Moreover, individuals living in poverty may delay seeking medical care due to financial constraints, leading to exacerbation of health issues and increased healthcare costs in the long term.

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Impact on Access to Healthcare

Access to quality healthcare is essential for mitigating the health effects of poverty. However, individuals facing financial hardship often encounter barriers to accessing healthcare services. Recent data from the Health Foundation revealed that individuals in the lowest income quintile are more likely to report unmet healthcare needs compared to those in higher income brackets. Furthermore, cuts to public health funding and austerity measures have strained healthcare resources, exacerbating disparities in healthcare access and quality.

Nursing Interventions and Advocacy

Nurses play a vital role in addressing the health needs of individuals affected by poverty.

Through holistic assessment and person-centered care, nurses can identify social determinants of health and provide tailored interventions to improve health outcomes.

This may involve connecting patients with community resources, advocating for policy changes to address structural inequalities, and providing health education on preventive measures.

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Collaborative Efforts and Policy Solutions

Addressing the root causes of poverty requires collaborative efforts across healthcare, social services, and government agencies. Nurses can engage in advocacy efforts to promote policies that support income security, affordable housing, and access to education and healthcare for all. By partnering with community organizations and policymakers, nurses can contribute to creating a more equitable society where everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy life.

Poverty remains a significant determinant of health outcomes in the UK, with far-reaching implications for individuals, families, and communities. As frontline healthcare providers, nurses are uniquely positioned to address the complex interplay between poverty and health through holistic care, advocacy, and collaboration. By recognizing the social determinants of health and advocating for policy changes, nurses can contribute to creating a healthier and more equitable society for all.

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About the author

I’m Amira, I qualified as an Adult Nurse over a year ago and I have been working in theatres since qualifying. I am an adult trained nurse working in a paediatric hospital. I specialise in spines, trauma and orthopaedics. Outside of work I am a keen baker and fitness enthusiast.

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    • Matt Farrah one month ago
      Matt Farrah
    • Matt Farrah
      one month ago

      Thanks Amira. Good insight and compassionate thoughts around a difficult subject.