European suicide rates pushed higher by financial crisis

Thu Jul 7, 2011 7:28pm EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Suicides rates rose sharply in Europe in 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes, with the worst hit countries like Greece and Ireland seeing the most dramatic increases, researchers said on Friday.

But rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because higher numbers of jobless people led to lower car use, according to an initial analysis of data from 10 European Union (EU) countries.

"Even though we're starting to see signs of a financial recovery, what we're now also seeing is a human crisis. There's likely to be a long tail of human suffering following the downturn," said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain's Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis.

Stuckler, Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Sanjay Basu of the University of California San Francisco published their initial analysis in the Lancet journal and said the data "reveal the rapidity of the health consequences of financial crises."

Stuckler said in a telephone interview the researchers did not yet have enough data to make a worthwhile estimate of how many deaths in total could be linked to the financial crisis, but that is something they plan to do in future work.

"In particular, we want to understand better why some individuals, communities, and entire societies are especially vulnerable, yet some seem more resilient to economic shocks," the researchers wrote.

Stuckler said he feared the social and health costs of the recent global economic downturn would turn out to be high.

"We can already see that the countries facing the most severe financial reversals of fortune, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides," he said.   Continued...