[MGSA-L] Austerity in Greece caused more than 500 male suicides, say researchers

June Samaras june.samaras at gmail.com
Tue Apr 22 13:59:00 PDT 2014


Austerity in Greece caused more than 500 male suicides, say researchers

Study finds clear link between spending cuts and rise in number of men who
killed themselves between 2009 and 2010

Katie Allen
The Guardian, Monday 21 April 2014 14.46 BST

Spending cuts in Greece caused a rise in male suicides, according to
research that attempts to highlight the health costs of austerity. Echoing
official statistics in the UK showing suicide rates are still higher than
before the crisis, researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found a
correlation between spending cuts and suicides in Greece.

According to the research, every 1% fall in government spending in Greece
led to a 0.43% rise in suicides among men – after controlling for other
characteristics that might lead to suicide, 551 men killed themselves
"solely because of fiscal austerity" between 2009 and 2010, said the
paper's co-author Nikolaos Antonakakis.

"That is almost one person per day. Given that in 2010 there were around
two suicides in Greece per day, it appears 50% were due to austerity," he

Antonakakis, a Greek economics lecturer, said he had been prompted to look
into a potential link between austerity and suicide rates after media
stories and reports of friends of friends dying from suicide.

Although there had been studies into the health effects of negative
economic growth, there was a gap when it came specifically to spending cuts
and health, he said.

Antonakakis and his co-author, economics professor Alan Collins, said they
were surprised at how many suicides appeared linked to austerity and how
clear the connection was.

There was also a clear gender divide in the effects of austerity with no
obvious rise in female suicide rates, according to the research published
in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

Men aged 45-89 faced the highest suicide risk in response to austerity
because they were most likely to suffer cuts to their salaries and
pensions, the research said.

Antonakakis and Collins are considering work on the link between austerity
and suicide rates in other countries most affected by the eurozone crisis,
such as 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

We have to consider the health multipliers of any fiscal consolidation and
austerity. The fact we find gender specificity and age specificity can help
health agencies target their help."

Political economist David Stuckler and physician-epidemiologist Sanjay Basu
pointed to soaring suicide rates, rising HIV infections and even a malaria
outbreak in their book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, published
last year. But they argued that such costs were not inevitable and that, in
some countries, countermeasures such as active labour market schemes had
softened the blow from cuts.

In Greece, however, HIV infection rose by more than 200% from 2011 as
prevention budgets were cut and intravenous drug use grew as youth
unemployment reached 50%. Greece also experienced its first malaria
outbreak in decades after budget cuts to mosquito-spraying, the authors

In the UK, official statistics released in February showed that suicide
rates for 2012 had changed little from 2011 but remained significantly
higher than five years earlier.

The Samaritans charity said that, despite the economic recovery, many
people were still very worried about money, jobs and housing, and that one
in six calls to its service were about financial worries. That compares
with one in 10 in 2008.

Its research has shown that disadvantaged men in mid-life are at higher
risk of suicide. Men in the lowest socio-economic group living in the most
deprived areas are approximately 10 times more likely to die by suicide
than men from higher socio-economic backgrounds, living in the most
affluent areas.

Responding to the research on Greece, a Samaritans spokesman said: "There
is a well established link between unemployment and suicide, which tends to
increase during economic recession, particularly where it's not offset by
welfare safety nets.

"The fact that disadvantaged people have shorter lives, live with physical
and mental health problems and are more likely to die by suicide are
inequities that demand a response by services such as Samaritans.

"As the nation's listening ear, we'd like to remind people struggling to
cope that we will continue to be here for anybody who needs someone to
listen to them."

• The Samaritans helpline is 08457 90 90 90 in the UK and can be emailed
jo at samaritans.org
June Samaras
2020 Old Station Rd
Canada L5M 2V1
Tel : 905-542-1877
E-mail : june.samaras at gmail.com
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