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Study: Austerity in Greece led to tragic increase of 35% in suicides in just two years

Tough financial austerity measures in Greece have led to a 35% jump in suicide rates in a little less than 2 years, new research shows.

“Our main finding was that after 2010, when harsh austerity measures were implemented in Greece, we noted a significant increase in suicide rates for the years 2011 and 2012 in comparison to the period between 2003 and 2010,” George Rachiotis, MD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology and occupational hygiene, University of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece, told Medscape Medical News.

“In addition, we found that there was a significant correlation between suicide rates with an increase in unemployment in Greece, where unemployment has almost doubled [since 2009] and is now approaching 30%.”

Dr Rachiotis was interviewed here during the 12th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry.

Greece Hit Especially Hard

The economic crisis that has affected many European countries has hit Greece especially hard.  Specifically, the Greek government was required to cut spending by €28 billion ($31.24 billion) in 2010-2011, with a further cut of €13 billion ($14.5 billion) in 2012-2014.

The first three austerity packages, beginning in 2010, included cuts to public sector jobs and salaries and to pensions, Dr Rachiotis noted, as well as increases in indirect taxes and privatization of state-owned industries.

“By February 2012, 20,000 additional Greeks had been rendered homeless, and 20% of shops in the historic center of Athens were empty,” Dr Rachiotis notes in his study. “And an estimated 1 in about 10 of the population of greater Athens was visiting a soup kitchen daily.”

The group most affected by the hard economic hits were working-aged men between 20 and 59 years of age, in whom the suicide rate increased from 6.56 to 8.81 per 100,000 population in 2011- 2012.

“We observed that each 1 percentage point rise of unemployment rates in men aged 20 to 59 was associated with a 0.19/100,000 population rise in suicide,” Dr Rachiotis noted.

Although not statistically significant, “we also found an increase in suicide rates among individuals over the age of 65 years,” he added.

“And this reflected the particular difficulties of pensioners in Greece, because pensions have been dramatically reduced for older Greek workers.”

The suicide rate also rose among women in 2011-2012, although less markedly so than for men.

“Austerity heightens suicide risks directly by creating job losses, especially among public sector workers, and by increasing economic insecurity,” Dr Rachiotis stated.

Indeed, the 35% increase in suicide rates in 2011-2012 recorded in Greece mirrors a very similar increase in suicide rates from 1989-1994 in Russian men when the so-called “shock therapy” programs were being implemented.

Findings from Dr Rachiotis’ study are alarming enough, but they have been corroborated by a number of other studies, including a study by Charles C. Branas, MD, and colleagues that was published February 2, 2015, in BMJ Open.

Having tracked the suicide rate in Greece for more than 30 years, Dr Branas and coworkers found that the highest monthly rates of suicide in Greece occurred in 2012.

“The passage of new austerity measures in June 2011 marked the beginning of significant, abrupt and sustained increases in total suicides (+35.7%) and male suicides (+18.5%),” the investigators write.

 Suicides among men in Greece also underwent a significant, abrupt, and sustained increase in October 2008, when the Greek recession began along with an abrupt albeit temporary increase in suicides in April 2012, when a pharmacist publicly shot himself to protest the austerity measures.

Full article here.

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5 comments

  1. This study is absolut nonsense: Nobody knows the reasons for a suicide and it’s cynical to relate the suicides to the economical situation. But what is much more important is the fact, that suicide rate in Greece is lower (!) than for example in Germany:
    /www.worldlifeexpectancy.com

    • What a load of bullshit. Of course you can know the reasons for a suicide, in fact, most suicides leave a note behind telling you exactly why. For those that don’t, interviews with family, friends and loved ones make it abundently clear why the suicide happened. the National Suicide Research Foundation did a study on suicide in the Cork area in Ireland in 2008.

      The victims were predominantly men, with an average age of 36. Almost 40 percent were unemployed, and 32 percent worked in construction as plumbers, electricians and plasterers. generally, those who took their own lives suffered from a constellation of problems: financial struggles, unemployment, broken relationships and loneliness. A complete picture of the phenomenon across Europe is elusive, as some countries lag in reporting statistics and coroners are loath to classify deaths as suicides, to protect surviving family members.

      Financial crisis puts the lives of ordinary people at risk, but much more dangerous is when there are radical cuts to social protection.

      The Lancet

      research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, show that suicide rates “rose significantly” after the 2007 crash. Experts from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the increase was four times higher among men.

      etc etc. Instead of acusing others of spouting nonsense, you might just stop doing it yourself…

    • Giaourti Giaourtaki

      Greeks follow Germans, kill yourself more, just like Sokrates did.
      But wait: German suicide rate is still higher than in the Islamic State

    • Right. It’s a complete mystery to us why suicide rates go up with unemployment rates and economic depression — always, including in the 1930s.

      And what is really important is what happens in Germany, not what happens in Greece. Right.

      You know where you can shove your Nazi ideas.