Austerity measures in Greece resulted in a "significant, sharp, and sustained" increase in suicides, according to 30-year study published in the British Medical Journal this week.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, found that there was a 35 per cent rise in suicide cases in June 2011 - the same time as the government imposed further austerity measures to pay the country's debts - which was sustained through 2012.
During the study - from 1 January 1983 to 31 December 2012 - researchers tracked the suicide rate and identified the effects of "austerity" and "prosperity" factors on the numbers.
We found that perhaps it is the economic policies themselves, but also the public messaging of these policies by the government and the press that are both driving the changes in suicide.
[An important task] is to think about different, less ominous messaging when austerity policies are enacted and perhaps even to consider less drastic policies that achieve similar goals.
- Charles Branas, lead author of the study, speaking to AFP
Samaritans guidelines on reporting suicide warn that "it is important not to brush over the complex realities of suicide" and estimate that 90 per cent of people who die from suicide have a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problem. However, following a similar study last year, a spokesperson for the charity said there was a well established link between unemployment and suicide, "particularly where it's not offset by welfare safety nets".
Thomas Hyphantis, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Ioannina, who was not involved in the study told the Verge that the research "confirms without doubt" the link.
It is true that not all suicides are due to the financial crisis and austerity measures. However, it is also true that not all suicides have their origins in the individual’s biological or psychological background, and the research at hand has established the link between suicide rates and austerity measures taken in Greece.
- Thomas Hyphantis, University of Ioannina