Economic slump linked with soaring suicide rates in Europe

Daily Mail | July 8, 2011

The financial crisis that swept Europe almost certainly led to an increase in suicides, according to health experts' research.

Researchers say that when the rate of unemployment rose, suicide rates immediately increased in nine of the ten countries they studied between 2007 and 2009.

The analysts say that countries facing the most severe cuts and debts including Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicide, medical journal The Lancet reported.

The team of researchers, who took their mortality rate data from the World Health Organisation, say that the key to combating the rise is investment in welfare systems, efforts to improve labour opportunities and strong social support networks.

U.S. and UK experts used complete data from 'new' EU states - ones that joined after 2004 - Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania.

They also took data from old EU states - ones that were members before 2004 - Austria, Finland, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Dr David Stuckler, who worked on the report, wrote in The Lancet: 'These findings reveal the rapidity of the health consequences of financial crises.'

The researcher says previous figures backed their findings: 'In the pre-2004 EU, we see that suicides increased both before and during periods when unemployment rose, at a time of significant economic insecurity across Europe,' he said in The Lancet.

'This is also consistent with historical studies that show immediate rises in suicides associated with 'early indicators' of crisis, such as turmoil in the banking sector, which precipitates later unemployment.'

The countries facing the most severe financial crises, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides.

The increases varied between 5 per cent and 17 per cent for under 65s after a period of falling suicide rates, which had been dropping until 2007.

Greece saw a staggering 17 per cent incline, while Ireland's suicide rate soared by 13 per cent.

In Latvia suicides increased by more than 17 per cent between 2007 and 2008.
Of the risers, Finland, also with strong social protection systems, had an increase in suicides of just over 5 per cent in the same period.

The researchers say out of all the countries Austria, which provides a strong social support network, had a slight decline in suicides despite an increase in unemployment of 0·6 percentage points between 2007 and 2009.