News / Europe

European Economic Slump Leads to Suicide Spike

A man empties out the remains of an olive oil container from a trash bin in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, January 4, 2011
A man empties out the remains of an olive oil container from a trash bin in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, January 4, 2011

Countries across Europe are coping with an economic slump and researchers have found that it’s having an effect on suicide rates, especially in some of the worst hit countries.

Research published this week shows that suicide rates are on the rise across Europe. According to the study published in the medical journal The Lancet, Greece has seen the sharpest rise.

Pavlos Tsimas is a journalist based in Greece. He recently made a documentary about the trend. He interviewed family members who had lost loved ones and told VOA some of their stories.

"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. Nothing was found of him, his body was totally extinguished by fire."

Greece feels sting

Greece is suffering the costs of a major public deficit. For more than a year, the government has cut spending and hiked up taxes in an effort to sort out its finances.

Many say it’s the only way to keep the Greek economy afloat. But it’s having devastating consequences for many Greeks. Today, one in six is unemployed.  

Tsima said the businessman who lit his car on fire wasn’t the only one to go out in such a dramatic way.  

"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 unlucky they were, how sad they have been, how hopeless they have felt."

He said in Greece, it’s mostly men who are killing themselves. And he said the number has gone up most on the island Crete. The reasons, he said, are complex. It’s not just about poverty or unemployment, but also about dignity and self respect, he said.

"I guess this is one of the reasons it happens mostly in Crete, where social and family life is more traditional, more patriarchal. 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 their life no longer has meaning that drives them to this kind of act," said Tsima.

Banking crisis slams Europe

Greece isn’t the only country seeing a rise in suicide.

The study looked at statistics in 10 European countries from 2007 and 2009, and found that while suicide had previously been going down in Europe, since the banking crisis hit it’s been on the rise.

Nine of the 10 countries surveyed had seen a 5 percent rise in rates. In Ireland, another country in economic turmoil, the increase is 13 percent.

David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain’s University of Cambridge who co-wrote the report, said, “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 16 percent in some of the worst affected countries like Greece.”

Meaningful job is crucial

Stuckler said attempted suicides and depression also are on the rise. He calls it a “mental health crisis.”

But he said there is good news. In countries where governments have helped get people back into work, like in Sweden and Finland,  suicide rates have not increased.

“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,” said Stuckler.

Governments across Europe need to learn that lesson, he said.

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs