Universal Basic Income and health – strong support and distinctive concerns from a deprived community in NE England

  • Johnson, M. (Speaker)
  • Jonathan Coates (Speaker)
  • Neil Howard (Speaker)
  • Johnson, E. (Speaker)
  • Anne Corrigan (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been proposed as an upstream intervention with pathways to health impact by reducing poverty and unpredictability (Johnson M et al. 2022). Microsimulation modelling has suggested significant impact on mental health (Johnson E et al. 2022), but there is also evidence to suggest prospective impact on physical health, especially in terms of ‘lifestyle’ conditions. With increased recognition of the need for prevention, and the Welsh trial of basic income for care leavers under way, there is need among public health policymakers to understand community understanding of prospective impacts and social feasibility of UBI.

The NIHR has funded a series of citizen engagement workshops within Jarrow, Tyneside, in the North East of England. Jarrow sits within the 19th most deprived local authority, South Tyneside, within the UK (Local Insight Census 2022). Two sets of citizen engagement groups were held in January and February 2023, with 20 participants divided by generation (baby boomer, generation x, millennial and generation z) into four facilitated groups with 5 participants in each. The first set examined implications of local schemes designed for community-level impact; the second examined community-level impacts of national policy. Data were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.

Data support elements of previous research, but also indicate two findings of importance to health policy. As in recent studies conducted with young people in Bradford (Johnson 2023), there was clear recognition of the potential health benefits of UBI, mainly mediated through a reduction in stress for those in and out of work and increased long-term health-promoting behaviour. However, there was a significant concern i) about the potential for recipients to be victims of acquisitive and violent crime during randomized trials and ii) about UBI’s potential impact on bingeing behaviour and addiction, which is not prominent in the literature. These are crucial concerns, given high rates of crime and drug and alcohol use within low-income communities and their role as social determinants.

This study demonstrates the potential public health benefit of cash-based upstream interventions, but also the complexity of implementing schemes in ways that do not inflict harm. There is need for more robust evidence on the role of sudden income increases on short-term, health-diminishing behaviour through crime and drug and alcohol misuse. This highlights the importance of PPI in considering the safety of recipients in design and implementation of trials, especially in communities vulnerable to changes in resource.
Period8 Sept 2023
Event titleSociety for Social Medicine & Population Health
Event typeConference
LocationNewcastle, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational