An educational resource at the heart of criminological teaching, debate, and research

Editor's Blog

Rising suicide rates in Greece

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

In criminology, we have known for a long time, at least since the research of French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, that suicide rates increase during periods of high unemployment or in situations of acute business stress - and health studies no doubt still show correlations between lower socio-economic position or class and high rates of a range of serious diseases or illnesses. So it will be no surprise, although very saddening, to read that the Greek Ministry of Health has reported that the suicide rate is up 40% so far in 2011.  The study in The Lancet that records and investigates this is a systematic look at the effects of the Greek economic crisis and at suicide rates particularly.

In a telephone survey of 2256 respomdents, using a representative sampling technique, the authors, Marina Economou, Michael Madianos, Christos Theleritis, Lily Peppou and Costas Stefanis, reached the following conclusion, which is worth quoting in full:

"Of the study findings, the most alarming one pertained to suicidal attempts. There was a 36% increase in the number who reported having attempted suicide in the month before the survey from 24 (1·1%) in 2009 to 34 (1·5%) in 2011. We also found that a significantly higher proportion of respondents with an IPED score of 15 or more (ie, high economic distress) had attempted suicide in the month before the survey than had respondents with an IPED lower than 15 (27 [10%] vs 7 [0·6%], p<0·001). Similarly, a significantly higher proportion of respondents with a high IPED had shown suicidal ideation in the month before the survey than had respondents with low IPED (58 [21·2%]vs 86 [7·4%], p<0·001). These results accord with those of Stuckler and colleagues, who reported a 17% increase in suicides in Greece, and might suggest that the ways in which economic distress is experienced by the population could be discerned in their increased suicidality.
Consequently, there is an urgent need for intensive screening, follow-up, and treatment of people with suicidal ideation, especially now that the recession has led to increases in both suicide attempts and suicides. Despite the turmoil, Greece is struggling to maintain a social welfare state; however, gaps in primary health care render the situation hard to address. Telephone helplines might contribute to alleviating the stress germane to financial hardship, prevent the proliferation of suicidal thoughts, and guide people to effective and timely treatment."
Commenting on this article, economist Michael Roberts states in his blog in a piece on "Greece going under":

"Since the Greeks took the financial medicine of the EU bailout packages, unemployment has risen from 6.6% to 17% and youth unemployment from 18.6% to 40%.  Using European Union statistics, the Lancet authors surveyed socio-demographic data obtained from 12,346 and 15,045 residents of Greece in 2007 and 2009, respectively.  It records a sharp rise in people reporting their health as “bad” or “very bad.” The study attributes a marked rise in HIV infection in 2010 to increased intravenous drug use, prostitution, and weakening of HIV prevention programmes.  The survey reveals a big increase in people not using physician, dental, and hospital services. The problems include long waiting times, travel difficulties, and budget cuts affecting both public and private hospitals. Hospital services have deteriorated through staff and supply shortages often remedied only through bribes.  Diminished primary and preventative care services have led to high admission rates to public hospitals, up 24% in 2010, 8% so far in 2011. That trend relates also to private hospital admissions falling 25% in 2010. NGOs have long operated “street clinics” in Greece to serve immigrants, but now Greek citizens now make up 30% of users.  Mental depression figures are up, and between 2007 and 2009 suicides rose by 17%; in 2010, by 25%; and in the first half of 2011, 40%. Suicide hotlines report that 25% of callers speak of serious financial difficulties. Homicide rates doubled between 2007 and 2009."

Those calling for cuts in Greek state expenditure should be sure they know what they mean. Economic stability of any kind would certainly be 'a good thing' for everybody but asking ordinary people to pay for the errors of the bankers and the ruling classes will only maximize mass stress and the depression, self-destruction, crime, and dissidence which follow. As in the UK, even the most heartless, elitist, ruling class, old Etonian has to ask whether that is worth it. From the point of view of ordinary souls, we have to ask whether we have any political parties at all who understand and respect our need for health and survival.




Text Size