Material deprivation

Health suffers from poverty

Health suffers from poverty

17th October 2018: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Severe material deprivation has consequences for health and access to health care.

Poverty has a severe impact on the health and on the access to health care for persons in a situation of severe material deprivation:

  • 43 % of them have a chronic disease or a chronic health problem
  • 19 % have not been to the doctor in the last 12 months and 53 % have not been to the dentist
  • 79 % of materially deprived households consider the cost of medicines as a medium or significant financial burden

This is shown in figures from the survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) by Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, conducted in 2017 among 6,000 Belgian households. Through this survey, harmonised at European level, the major evolutions with regard to poverty and social exclusion are followed.


Coûts des médicaments

Groupe-cible: ménages avec médicaments nécessaires; Période de référence: 2017 (12 derniers mois) - SILC

  En risque de pauvreté ou exclusion sociale Pas en risque de pauvreté ou exclusion sociale SMD Non-SMD En risque de pauvreté monétaire Pas en risque de pauvreté monétaire
Une charge lourde 28% 10% 45% 12% 27% 11%
Une charge moyenne 31% 20% 34% 22% 31% 21%
Pas une charge du tout 41% 70% 21% 66% 42% 68%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Statbel (Direction générale Statistique - Statistics Belgium)
Métadonnées : description des données et des tableaux
SMD: Un individu est en situation de privation matérielle sévère lorsque son ménage a des conditions de vie fortement affectées par le manque de ressources; au moins quatre des neuf indicateurs de privation s’appliquent à elles: impossibilité 1: de régler le loyer ou les factures pour les services d’utilité publique, 2: de chauffer convenablement le domicile, 3: de faire face à des dépenses imprévues, 4: de consommer de la viande, du poisson ou un équivalent protéiné tous les deux jours, 5: de partir en vacances hors du domicile une semaine par an, 6: d’acheter une voiture, 7: d’acheter une machine à laver le linge, 8: d’acheter une télévision couleur ou 9: de payer une connexion téléphonique.  
Faible: aucun diplôme, enseignement primaire, enseignement secondaire inférieur  Moyen: enseignement secondaire supérieur, ESP de 4e degré, 7e année d’ESG/EST/ESA/ESP  Elevé: enseignement supérieur (école supérieure, université), doctorat
Table 2
Percentage of people living in a household that cannot financially afford 2017
to pay bills on time (rent, water, electricity, etc.) 5,0%
to take every year one week’s holiday away from home 25,0%
to eat a meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent at least every second day 6,0%
to face unexpected financial expenses 25,0%
to own a telephone 0,1%
to own a colour television 0,6%
to own a washing machine 1,0%
to own a car 6,0%
to keep the home adequately warm 6,0%
% of people deprived of at least 4 of the 9 items above who are therefore in a "situation of severe material deprivation" 5,0%
Statbel (Directorate-General Statistics - Statistics Belgium)
Are considered to be in a situation of severe material deprivation people living in a household that cannot afford four of the following items for financial reasons: 1) paying bills on time, 2) taking every year one week's holiday away from home, 3) eating a meal with meat, chicken or fish at least every second day, 4) facing an unexpected expense of at least 1,100 euros 5) having a telephone, 6) having a colour television, 7) having a washing machine, 8) having a car and 9) keeping the house adequately warm.
Are not considered to be in a situation of severe material deprivation people living in a household that can financially afford at least six of these items. Nevertheless, this means that they may not be able to afford up to three of these items.

Purpose and brief description

"EU-SILC" (European Union - Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) is a European survey on income and living conditions and an important tool to map poverty and social exclusion at Belgian and European level.

In Belgium, the EU-SILC survey is organised by Statbel. Every year, about 6,000 households (or 11,000 people) are surveyed and followed up for a maximum of four consecutive years. In the SILC survey, social exclusion is regarded as the result of several factors such as income, employment, health and education level.


Private households

Data collection method and sample size

CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interview).


60% (N= ± 6000 households).



Timing publication

Prelimerary results (material deprivation and module) are available in January afther the reference period, final restults are available in June after the refernce period.


Calculation of the monetary poverty risk (AROP)

The poverty threshold is set at 60 % of the median disposable income at individual level. It is calculated as follows: 60 % of 22,784 euros per year equals to a threshold of 13,670 euros per year or 1,139 euros per month for a single person. For households, this threshold is not simply multiplied by the number of household members. Considering that household members share costs and expenditures, a factor of 0.5 is applied to a second adult in a household in the calculation of the poverty threshold, and a factor of only 0.3 is applied to children (<14 years). The poverty threshold for a household consisting of two adults and two children is therefore obtained by multiplying the threshold of single people by a factor of 2.1 [(€13,670 *2.1)/12 = €2,392 per month]. This factor of 2.1 is calculated by assigning a weight of 1 to the head of the household, of 0.5 to the second adult of the household and of 0.3 to each child.

Households with low work intensity (LWI)

These are the households where adults (aged 18 to 59, excluding students) have worked on average less than one fifth of the time during the reference year.

Material deprivation (SMD): details of the indicator

People considered as "severely materially deprived" are confronted with at least four of the nine following situations: they cannot afford to pay rent or utility bills, to keep their home adequately warm, to face unexpected expenses, to eat meat, fish or a protein equivalent every second day, to go on a one-week holiday away from home, to have a car, a washing machine, a colour TV or a telephone.

European poverty indicator: AROPE (At Risk of Poverty or Social Exclusion)

This indicator is derived from the three indicators mentioned above (AROP, LWI, SMD). If one or more of the conditions are met, i.e. if the household in which the person lives is characterised by low income and/or low work intensity and/or severe material deprivation, that person is considered at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion (multidimensional poverty).

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