Suicide rates in Europe 'linked' to financial crisis

Stressed man Experts looked at suicide problems in 10 European countries

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The financial crisis "almost certainly" led to an increase in suicides across Europe, health experts say.

The analysis by US and UK researchers found a rise in suicides was recorded among working age people from 2007 to 2009 in nine of the 10 nations studied.

The increases varied between 5% and 17% for under 65s after a period of falling suicide rates, The Lancet reported.

Researchers said investment in welfare systems was the key to keeping rates down.

In particular, they argued supporting people back into work or having programmes to stop them losing their jobs in the first place was more important than giving them benefits.

The team used World Health Organization data to compare rates in the 10 countries, including the UK.

'Complete turnaround'

During the period, there was a rise in unemployment by a third.

Only Austria saw suicide rates fall. This was put down to the country being less exposed to the financial crisis than the others.

Of the risers, Finland fared best while Greece had the worst record. The UK saw a rise of 10% to 6.75 suicides per 100,000 people.

Dr David Stuckler, one of the researchers, said: "There was a complete turnaround. Suicides were falling before the recession, then started rising in nearly all European countries studied. Almost certainly these rises are linked to the financial crisis."

And he added it was also possible there would be other health consequences from the economic problems as the impact on heart disease and cancer rates was not likely to be seen for many years.

'Major risk factors'

However, the researchers also found that road deaths fell during the period - a trend which was put down to the falls in vehicle use that tend to be seen during difficult economic times.

The report comes after a BBC investigation earlier this year found there had been a rise in anti-depressant prescribing during the financial crisis.

Prescriptions for drugs such as Prozac rose by more than 40% over the past four years with GPs saying more and more people were coming to them with money worries.

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: "We know that unemployment and the fear of unemployment are major risk factors for poor mental health.

"This research shows how important it is that we treat the mental health of people who are not just out of work but also in work but fear losing their jobs as a major public health issue".

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