Suicide rates soar in Greece as economic cuts bite

April 22, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—The effect of economic cuts on debt ravaged Greece included a dramatic rise in the number of men committing suicide, according to new research.

The research, by Dr Nikolaos Antonakakis and Professor Alan Collins at the University of Portsmouth, is the first to examine the direct impact of fiscal austerity on in any country.

The two economists are now calling for governments and agencies to find ways of stopping people being broken by harsh economic cuts.

The research is published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

According to the research, every one per cent fall in government spending in Greece leads to a 0.43 per cent rise in suicides among men. Put simply, 551 men committed between 2009 and 2010 in Greece solely due to fiscal austerity.

Dr Antonakakis said: "We were surprised, this is a huge number, but the results were very clear – more men commit suicide as economic conditions worsen.

"Interestingly, the effects of fiscal austerity and economic growth are gender-specific, with no obvious rise in the number of women committing suicide."

Men aged 45-89 are the most likely to commit suicide in response to harsh economic cuts because they are most likely to suffer drastic cuts to their salaries and pensions.

Surprisingly, the study – which examined suicides and the economy over more than four decades – also found an increase in and divorce helped reduce suicide rates among the over-45s.

Dr Antonakakis, a Senior Lecturer in Portsmouth Business School and an Assistant Professor in Vienna University of Economics and Business, said: "Despite its legal obligation to assess the health effects of EU policies, the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission has been rather passive in terms of assessing the impact of the troika's push for austerity, and has rather limited EU commentary to advise how health ministries should cut their budgets.

"Only recently has the European Commission begun measures to release structural funds to support access to health care for those otherwise without cover.

"Euro zone leaders should put greater emphasis on stimulating debt-stricken economies to mitigate or even eliminate the negative effects of fiscal consolidation and austerity on suicides."

The authors are also calling for specialised suicide prevention programmes to be set up in Greece to help the most distressed and vulnerable.

The researchers studied the number of suicides in Greece from 1968-2011.

The results provide the most comprehensive and up to date picture of the effect of the economic downturn on Greece, which received its first bailout of €110 billion in 2010 with strict conditions including tough austerity measures; privatisation of government assets; and dramatic changes to the country's industries and government. The effects of these measures include soaring unemployment rates and a sharp decline in growth.

The researchers found:

  • As growth fell and unemployment rose, suicides among men rose by between 1.4 and 2.2 per cent, respectively;
  • Negative and rising unemployment lead to significantly increased likelihood of younger men, aged 25-44, committing suicide, with a one per cent increase in unemployment leading to a 3.5 per cent rise in suicides among this age group, though migration and receiving money from family members who had migrated is found to reduce suicides among both the youth and female population.
  • A decline in fertility rates of women aged 25-64 leads to an increase in suicides rates among men. This may be because fertility rate usually serves as proxy for the degree of social integration and a decline in fertility can be interpreted as an increase in social disintegration and exclusion;
  • And that alcohol consumption and divorce reduce the suicide risk among men aged 45 and older.

The outlook for Greece in the short to medium term does not look encouraging, Dr Antonakakis said.

"The situation in Greece is improving and the country recently returned to the bond markets to get self-financed for the first time since it needed international rescue loans in 2010. However, the road is still very steep. Unemployment is at 27 per cent, and among youth, it is 60 per cent, and the country's debt is still at an unsustainable 170 per cent, which cannot be self-served."

The researchers are calling for more research to discover if the effects of fiscal austerity found in Greece apply also to other countries.

Explore further: Financial crisis drives up Greek suicide rate

More information: Social Science and Medicine, "The Impact of Fiscal Austerity on Suicide: On the Empirics of a Modern Greek Tragedy." Nikolaos Antonakakisa and Alan Collins (in press)

Related Stories

Financial crisis drives up Greek suicide rate

September 10, 2013
Suicides increased by 45 percent during the first four years of Greece's financial crisis, a mental health aid group said Tuesday, warning there are indications of a further "very large rise" over the past two years.

UK recession may be to blame for over 1,000 suicides in England

August 14, 2012
A paper published in the British Medical Journal today suggests that over 1000 people have committed suicide due to the 2008-2010 economic recession in the UK (846 men and 155 women).

2008 economic crisis could be to blame for thousands of excess suicides worldwide

September 17, 2013
In a paper published today in BMJ, researchers are suggesting that the 2008 global economic crisis could be to blame for the increase in suicide rates in European and American countries, particularly among males and in countries ...

Study reveals austerity's harmful impact on health in Greece

April 18, 2013
In one of the most detailed studies of its kind, a team of Greek and U.S. researchers have vividly chronicled the harmful public health impacts of the economic austerity measures imposed on Greece's population in the wake ...

Financial crisis to blame for increased number of suicides in Italy

August 21, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The global financial crisis has contributed to an increase in the rates of suicide and attempted suicide for economic reasons in Italy, new research shows.

US suicide rates have increased since economic crisis began

November 4, 2012
Suicide rates in the US have risen sharply since the economic crisis took hold in 2007, warn the authors of Correspondence published Online First in The Lancet today.

Recommended for you

Psychologists say our 'attachment style' applies to social networks like Facebook

July 24, 2017
A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person's attachment style—how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships—and ...

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

World-first ketamine trial shows promise for geriatric depression

July 24, 2017
Australian researchers have completed the world's first randomised control trial (RCT) assessing the efficacy and safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression in elderly patients.

Musicians have high prevalence of eating disorders, study finds

July 24, 2017
They may live for the limelight and the call of their muse, but musicians may also be prone to eating disorders, according to new research.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2014
"Interestingly, the effects of fiscal austerity and economic growth are gender-specific, with no obvious rise in the number of women committing suicide."

This is easy to explain...

Traditional family roles put the psychological responsibility for money on the man. This is true both for dating purposes and married couples, thereby greatly discouraging men who have financial problems, whether or not they are married. Women would not be expected to feel this pressure as highly, because traditional family models do not put the pressure on women. Single women will simply wait for a wealthier man. Married women will simply divorce and find a wealthier man. They are expected to be supported by the man, even if they have a good job/career, so they feel less psychological trauma.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.