Austerity measures linked to sharp and sustained rise in Greece suicide rates

Austerity measures linked to sharp and sustained rise in Greece suicide rates

Records from 2012 revealed Greece suicide rates reached a 30 year all-time high. The sharp and sustained upward trend was prominently observed beginning June 2011—a period in which the Greek government implemented more austerity measures to manage the struggling Greek economy.

In the study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers learned that the sharp and sustained rise in Greece suicide rates linked to austerity measures implemented starting the 2008 Financial Crisis and Eurozone Crisis.

To validate the correlation between Greek suicide rates and austerity measures, the researchers compared data beginning 1983. They found out an interesting phenomenon around 2000—a period in which Greece experienced several economic milestones including prosperity events such as the admission into the European Union in 2000-2002, the adoption of the Euro currency in 2002, and the hosting of 2004 Olympic Games among others. Accordingly, during these period and events, there was an abrupt but short-lived fall in Greek suicide rates.

The researchers, nonetheless, found out that suicide rates starting 2008 has increased considerably and they further observe sharp and sustained increase beginning 2011. To be specific, the number of suicides rose by over 35% in June 2011 and this prevailed for the rest of the year. In 2012, there was an average of 11.2 suicides per month.

As a backgrounder, Greece entered recession in 2008. This event followed several austerity events and other related measures and responses including a series of financial bailout packages, riots, strikes, and protests. The worst and most grueling of these is the publicly staged suicide of Greek pensioners outside the Greek parliament.

The researchers further noted that the current economic instability in Greece has primarily affected men who are still the breadwinners in households. Still, the suicide rate among women has also surged beginning 2011.

Among the factors contributing to stress and a sense of helplessness among Greek citizens are high unemployment, household debt, comprehensive welfare and benefit cuts, and increasing homelessness.

“Despite historically having one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, Greece is thought to have been more affected by the global financial downturn than any other European country,” the researchers wrote.

“As future austerity measures are considered, greater weight should be given to unintended health consequences of these measures. Greater attention should also be paid to the public reporting of austerity measures and any subsequent suicide-related events that may follow.”

The findings are essentially suggestive of the long term and systemic effects of large government austerity programs on national economic stability and public health.