In research that will be seized on by opposition politicians demanding the UK's coalition government waver in its relentless austerity push, the political economist David Stuckler and the physician-epidemiologist Sanjay Basu say they have shown such policies are "seriously bad for our health".
Furthermore, such human sacrifice is by no means the inevitable consequence of economic crises, they say, as they draw on a range of data, from the Great Depression of the 1930s to post-communist Russia and the current recessions in the UK, Europe and the US.
In The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, due out next month, they cite examples from recent history and longer ago of where government reaction to economic shocks has had a positive and negative impact on health.
The more heartening examples they use include Sweden, where the number of suicides fell during the country's recession, despite a large rise in unemployment. The authors attribute this to active labour-market programmes.
In Greece, however, HIV infection has risen by over 200% since 2011 as prevention budgets have been cut, and intravenous drug use has grown amid 50% youth unemployment. Greece also experienced its first malaria outbreak in decades after budget cuts to mosquito-spraying, the authors say.
Looking back further, they see frightening lessons from history as they argue that about 1 million deaths in eastern Europe during the 1990s "can be attributed to austerity and related government divestment programmes".
Publicising the book, David Stuckler says: "Austerity is having a devastating effect on health in Europe and North America. The harms we have found include HIV and malaria outbreaks, shortages of essential medicines, lost healthcare access, and an avoidable epidemic of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide, among others.
"Our politicians need to take into account the serious, and in some cases profound, health consequences of economic choices. But so far, Europe's leaders have been in denial of the evidence that austerity is costing lives."
The evidence Stuckler and Basu use from the UK includes a drop in National Health Service satisfaction rates that has coincided with cuts, as well as a jump in the number of families pushed into homelessness since the austerity drive started.
Basu said: "Ultimately, what we show is that worsening health is not an inevitable consequence of economic recessions; it's a political choice. Austerity is bad for your health. But there is another way. In this book, we show how a new New Deal could work to improve economies and our nations' health."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010