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Greek austerity has caused more than 500 male suicides – report

Published time: April 21, 2014 20:48
Edited time: April 23, 2014 13:28
Protesters from the public sector scuffle with police during an anti-austerity rally outside the Finance Ministry in Athens February 28, 2014. (Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis)

Protesters from the public sector scuffle with police during an anti-austerity rally outside the Finance Ministry in Athens February 28, 2014. (Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis)

Spending cuts in Greece have caused some 500 male suicides since their implementation, according to a new study. The research found a positive correlation between austerity and suicide rates after other possible links proved to be unrelated.

The 30-page study, titled 'The Impact of Fiscal Austerity on Suicide: On the Empirics of a Modern Greek Tragedy' and published in the Social Science and Medicine journal was authored by Nikolaos Antonakakis and Alan Collins from Portsmouth University.

“Suicide rates in Greece (and other European countries) have been on a remarkable upward trend following the global recession of 2008 and the European sovereign debt crisis of 2009,”
states the study’s abstract.

Each 1 percent decrease in government spending resulted in a 0.43 percent rise in suicides among men, according to the study. Between 2009 and 2010, there were 551 deaths which occurred “solely because of fiscal austerity,” it stated.

Suicide rates by age group and gender in Greece, 1968-2009 (Source: WHO 2012)

“That is almost one person per day. Given that in 2010 there were around two suicides in Greece per day, it appears 50 percent were due to austerity,” one of the paper’s co-authors, Nikolaos Antonakakis, told the Guardian.

Antonakakis, a Greek national, said that he had been motivated to examine the link between austerity and suicide rates after watching media reports and hearing stories about friends of friends killing themselves.

While there had already been research into the impact of negative economic growth on health, there had previously been no studies linking austerity cuts with poor health and suicide.

“Our empirical findings suggest that fiscal austerity, higher unemployment rates, negative economic growth and reduced fertility rates lead to significant increases on overall suicide rates in Greece, while increased alcohol consumption and divorce rates do no exert any significant influence on overall suicide rates,” the study notes.

Antonakakis and Collins are both contemplating expanding their work by examining the link between economic austerity in other eurozone countries most affected by the crisis. This work could encompass Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland.

“These findings have strong implications for policymakers and for health agencies,” said Antonakakis. “We often talk about the fiscal multiplier effect of austerity, such as what it does to GDP. But what is the health multiplier?” he questioned.

The study identified some gender and age trends, finding that men in the 45-89 age bracket suffer the largest risk because of salary and pension cuts. There was no obvious rise in suicide rates among females.

“The fact we find gender specificity and age specificity can help health agencies target their help,” said Antonakakis.