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.
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,” the BBC quoted 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.”
Among the 10 countries studied – Austria, Britain, Finland, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia and Romania – only Austria had fewer suicides in 2009 than in 2007, with the rate down 5 percent.
In all of the other countries, the increase was at least 5 percent.
In Britain suicide rates rose from a recent low of 6.14 per 100,000 people aged under 65 in 2007, to 6.75 in 2008 – an increase of 10 percent, and remained similarly high in 2009.
Stuckler said that overall, the higher death rates from suicides appeared to be balanced out by the lower fatalities on the roads, which fell substantially, especially in new EU member countries where they were initially very high.