Suicide rise in Greece, EU, tied to crisis

Suicides rates rose sharply between 2007 and 2009 in several European countries including Greece as the repercussions of a broader economic crisis pushed up unemployment and slashed household incomes, British and US researchers said on Friday.

“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,? said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain’s Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis, published in the Lancet journal.

Stuckler and colleagues found that suicide rates were up 17 percent in Greece and 13 percent in Ireland.

“Even though we’re starting to see signs of a financial recovery, what we’re now also seeing is a human crisis,» Stuckler told Reuters. «There’s likely to be a long tail of human suffering following the downturn,» said Stuckler who worked with Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Sanjay Basu of the University of California San Francisco on the analysis.

The researchers said they did not yet have enough data to reliably estimate how many deaths in total could be linked to the financial crisis.

The same research also led to the conclusion that rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because a widespread drop in income led to people using their cars less.

At the end of last month, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos told Parliament that the number of people taking their own lives in Greece had increased by 40 percent but he did not explicitly link the rise to the economic crisis.

Loverdos noted that Greece remained among the countries with the lowest suicide rates, according to the World Health Organization (6.5 suicides per 100,000 residents last year).

This figure is believed to be lower than the real number, however, as many suicides are not reported due to the refusal of the Orthodox Church to conduct religious services for those who take their own lives.