Researchers at the University of Thessaly discovered that Greece experienced a 35% spike in suicide rates during 2010 and 2012, with unemployment and the expanding debt crisis in large part responsible for the rise.
Greece’s economy has been in a tailspin for years, exacerbated by extremely large welfare programs and spending on events such as the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. During the years the scientists studied, however, the Greek government began to implement austerity measures to reduce the national debt and make payments to the European Union, which resulted in increasing unemployment rates, particularly among working class men.
The scientists found that the suicide rate among men between 20 and 59 years of age in the two-year span increased from 6.56 to 8.81 per 100,000 men. “We observed that each 1 percentage point rise of unemployment rates in men aged 20 to 59 was associated with a 0.19/100,000 population rise in suicide,” explained Dr. George Rachiotis, who led the study, calling it a “significant correlation.”
The scientists allege that austerity measures to reduce spending contributed to the rise in unemployment and, thus, suicide. It does not present an alternative to these measures, however, and the current Greek government has refused to cut spending.
The study echoes the results of a similar project published in the British Medical Journal in February that found an extra 11.2 suicides began occurring every month between 2010 and 2012. “The introduction of austerity measures in June 2011 marked the start of a significant, sharp, and sustained increase in suicides, to reach a peak in 2012,” a statement released by the University of Pennsylvania and Edinburgh University stated.
While experts do not attribute the Greek debt crisis, which continues well into this day, to any one factor in particular, spending is considered a significant contributor to the nation’s economic woes. Another factor is the nation’s chronic inability to generate sufficient funding to pay for this spending. The Wall Street Journal noted at the end of 2014 that Greece had not received $86 billion in unpaid taxes from individuals, a deficit that has made a clear impact on the nation.
Despite debate over the origins of the problem, negotiators continue to seek ways to keep Greece in the Eurozone while not forcing the rest of Europe to pay for the nation’s existence. Greece is expected to make a payment to the European Union and the IMF on June 30, and has already confirmed it does not have the money to do so. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remains in Brussels, renegotiating terms for a new loan to be able to pay the June 30 installment. “We’re expecting the payment to be made June 30,” said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice today, though all parties confirmed no deal had been stuck in talks today.
The EU and IMF have insisted that Greece implement austerity measures to decrease spending and generate more revenue, making it possible for the country to repay its debt. Tsipras and his party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), have refused.
Tsipras gave reporters a thumbs-up motion as he left talks today.