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.
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.
Full article here.