Athens, October 13, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
The austerity measures implemented in Greece and four other peripheral Eurozone countries (Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy), in addition to economic impact, affected the psychological state of people leading to suicides, with men and young people marking a greater increase, and this cannot continue indefinitely without any protection for the people, warns in the basis of his new research results (conducted with Professor Alan Collins) the Greek researcher Nikolaos Antonakakis, in an interview with AMNA in Vienna.
The study of Greek researcher – who is assistant professor at the University of Portsmouth and associate professor at Webser University in Vienna, is among the first to examine the direct consequences of fiscal austerity in suicide rates in this group of peripheral Eurozone countries that have been most affected by the crisis, and takes account of the austerity measures with different socio-economic factors, such as reductions in government spending, deficit, tax hikes.
As Nicholaos Antonakakis reports, the increase in suicides appears as a result of the fall in GDP, with each decrease of one percentage point to the GDP growth in these countries, having caused 0.9% increase in suicide rates among all age groups, equivalent to more than 6,000 suicides in total over the period 2011-2012.
He adds, that when there were only spending cuts, the male population that was affected more severely was between the ages 65-89 years, namely 2,325 men in this age group have committed suicide in the period 2011-2012 as a result of fiscal austerity (pension cuts and salary ), while in the five years of its implementation (2009 – 2014) it is estimated that there were 4555 suicides in men in the age bracket of 65-89 years.
According to him, the survey results show that unemployment is the main cause of suicides, with the second cause being fiscal austerity, with both interacting with each other, while particularly worrying is, as he states, the significant rise in youth unemployment in the periphery of the euro zone, which leads to a dramatic increase in suicides in the male population between the ages of 10-24 years, which increased by 1.6% for each decrease of one unit of GDP.
The positive outcome of the investigation is, according to Antonakis’ observation, is the find that the negative effects of the economic recession and the fiscal policy could be mitigated by adopting redistributive policies and investing in some concrete stronger social protection elements on the periphery of the Eurozone.
In his view, this is very important because these results have very serious implications for economic policy-making and raise issues about the prolonged application of fiscal austerity, without any safety nets.
Nikolaos Antonakakis clarifies that he and professor Collins have in the past called on governments and organisations to find ways to resolve the blow people receive from harsh budget cuts, in a research they had published last year, which found that the spending cuts in Greece have caused a dramatic increase in male suicides.
Finally, in an interview with AMNA, the Greek researcher notes that the investigations used the official figures of the World Health Organisation, with the most recent ones being two to three years old, and estimates that the number of suicides in Greece for 2013 and 2014 will be similar to that of 2012, which according to official data was 508, and he concludes by sounding the alarm for 2015 and subsequent years, if austerity measures continue.