Europe started suffering in 2008 from the worst financial crisis since World War II. This crisis has had an unavoidable impact on health systems and heterogeneous effects on Europeans’ health. Several countries have reduced their health budgets and many of them have applied strong austerity measures.

Despite the fact that the cause-effect relations aren’t clear yet, the relation between the financial crisis with the loss of psychological well-being, the development of common mental troubles, addictions and the appearance of suicidal behaviours seems obvious.

The article has checked 41 studies on the effects that the financial crisis had on health. Most of the reports analyse the situation in two of the most affected countries: Spain and Greece. The most relevant studies register an increase in suicides from the beginning of the crisis, mainly in men of working age who are unemployed. A study conducted with information from 26 European countries outlines the positive relation between unemployment and the rise of suicidal rates and homicides, and a decrease of deaths involved in traffic accidents.

However, the studies focused on general mortality show a different picture of the situation, with overall mortality that doesn’t seem to be affected or that even has decreased during the years of the financial crisis. In precedent articles, a healthier lifestyle had been pointed out as the main reason during the worst period of the recession (for example, car accidents). According to a different American study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, mortality is generally procyclical -it moves in the same direction as the income-economic cycle does- and decreases in recession periods whereas suicides are countercyclical – they go the other way around to incomes in every stage of the cycle- and rise when the financial situation gets worse.

Researchers have also found signs that immigrants’ health, especially those in an irregular situation and without social coverage, has decreased further during the crisis than that of the people born in the countries analysed.

As far as mental health results are concerned, many studies reinforce the relation between the deterioration of economic indicators with poor mental health, especially among men. In Greece, for example, a report outlined that the probability of developing a severe case of depression was, in 2011, 2.6 times higher for everyone than at the beginning of the crisis in 2008. In Spain, another study showed that in 2011 depression among women was 23% higher than in 2003. Depression among men was, in the same year, 13% higher in comparison to 2003.

Nevertheless, the authors mention that every article was deeply analysed to detect and possible risk of errors. Thus, 29 of them (73%) were considered to have a high-risk for error; nine (23%) a moderate risk, and only two of them were qualified with a low risk level for error, which restricts the conclusions that can be drawn from them.

 


Source:

Divya Parmar, Charitini Stavropoulou, John P A Ioannidis. “Health outcomes during the financial crisis in Europe: systematic literature review“. BMJ, july 2016.

Agencia SINC. Más suicidios y peor salud mental por la crisis en España y Grecia. September 2016. Available at: http://www.agenciasinc.es/Noticias/Mas-suicidios-y-peor-salud-mental-por-la-crisis-en-Espana-y-Grecia