First reliable data suggest a possible increase in suicides in Greece

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AUSTERITY IN EUROPE

 

Konstantinos N Fountoulakis assistant professor of psychiatry1, Sotirios A Koupidis medical doctor2,

Ilias A Grammatikopoulos psychiatrist 3, Pavlos N Theodorakis adjunct professor, Open University

of Cyprus, and chairman, advisory board 4

1Third Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 55535 Thessaloniki, Greece; 2Social Cooperative “New

Horizons”, Corfu Mental Health Sector, Corfu, Greece; 3Veria, Greece; 4Social Cooperative, 8th Athens Mental Health Sector, Greece

Arie recently reported that suicide and murder rates rose by 22.7% between 2007 and 2009 in Greece as a consequence of austerity.1 Previously, the Greek Ministry of Health announced that the annual suicide rate might have increased by 40% and other authors reported a 17% increase in suicide rates during 2008-09.2 3 However, data from the Greek Statistics Authority do not suggest any increase at least until 2010.

Suicide rates recently reported for 2011 by the Greek Statistics Authority (EL.STAT, http://www.statistics.gr) suggest a significant increase and provide the first reliable report of an increase in suicide rates in Greece.

For the years 2000-10 the number of completed suicides ranged from 323 (in 2002) to 402 (in 2006), but in 2011 the total number was 477 (393 men; 84 women)—an increase of 26.52% compared with 2010 (377). The figure shows the number of suicides by year and age group. The increase was seen in men aged 45-64 years. The data for ages 35-44 years fluctuate greatly throughout the decade and no clear trend is present.

However, these data should be interpreted with caution. Increased recognition of suicide cannot be ruled out. In recent years the media have overemphasised the possible association between periods of economic crisis and suicidality, and such publicity is harmful.4 Thus, it is unclear how much this increase constitutes a self fulfilling prophecy. Further processing and analysis of the complete data set on all causes of death during the past few years is necessary before definite conclusions can be drawn.

Competing interests: None declared.

Full response at: http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2740/rr/652500.

1 Arie S. Health effects of Greece’s austerity measures are “worse than imagined,” report

researchers. BMJ 2013;346:f2740. (26 April.)

2 Kentikelenis A, Karanikolos M, Papanicolas I, Basu S, McKee M, Stuckler D. Health effects

of financial crisis: omens of a Greek tragedy. Lancet 2011;378:1457-8.

3 Stuckler D, Basu S, Suhrcke M, Coutts A, McKee M. Effects of the 2008 recession on

health: a first look at European data. Lancet 2011;378:124-5.

4 Etzersdorfer E, Sonneck G, Nagel-Kuess S. Newspaper reports and suicide. N Engl J

Med 1992;327:502-3.

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4900

© BMJ Publishing Group Ltd 2013

kfount@med.auth.gr

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2013;347:f4900 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f4900 (Published 6 August 2013) Page 1 of 2

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