Europe's Economic Problems Linked to Rise in Suicides

    Europe's Economic Problems Linked to Rise in Suicides
    Photo: AP
    A man empties out the remains of an olive oil container from a trash bin in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, Greece, in January.

    This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

    A study says more people are killing themselves in Greece and other countries affected by economic troubles in Europe. David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain's University of Cambridge, co-wrote the report.

    DAVID STUCKLER: "For the most part, the countries that have been more severely affected have experienced greater rises in suicides -- Ireland, Spain, the Baltics -- reaching up to sixteen percent in some of the worst affected countries, like Greece."

    Suicide rates in Europe had been decreasing. But then the international banking crisis hit in two thousand eight.

    The study looked at reports from ten European countries from two thousand seven and two thousand nine. Nine of the ten countries had a five percent increase in suicide rates between two thousand seven and two thousand nine. In Ireland the increase was thirteen percent.

    The study found that suicide rates have not increased in countries where governments have helped get people back to work. Examples include Sweden and Finland.

    DAVUD STUCKLER: "We found that just giving money to people who have lost jobs to replace their income did not appear to help. Instead, giving people a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a hope in terms of searching for a good, meaningful job seemed to be the most beneficial to helping people cope."

    The findings appeared last week in the Lancet medical journal.

    Greece is suffering the costs of a huge public deficit. For over a year, the government has cut spending and increased taxes in an effort to improve its finances.

    Pavlos Tsimas is a journalist based in Greece. He recently made a documentary about the increase in suicides.

    PAVLOS TSIMAS: "We investigated the case of a small businessman from Herakleion in Crete, who took his car, loaded it with tins of petrol, and first shot himself and then put fire to the whole car."

    Pavlos Tsimas says some people commit suicide in a public way, like the businessman in Crete.

    PAVLOS TSIMAS: "We found out that people killed themselves in a very dramatic and sometimes a very violent way, which maybe means that they are trying to make their suicide a statement, want the whole world to understand how badly they feel, how hopeless they have felt."

    He says Greeks who kill themselves are mostly men. And he says the number has gone up most on the island of Crete.

    PAVLOS TSIMAS: " ... where social and family life is more traditional, more patriarchic. The father of the family has to be respected as a figure of great strength. And when the economic problems arise, when jobs are lost and businesses are closed down, it is this despair because of the loss of respect, the loss of self-esteem, and the fact that the person feels that his life no longer has meaning, that drives them to this kind of act."

    And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. For more health news, go to I'm Jim Tedder.


    Contributing: Selah Hennessy