• Greek Debt Crisis Spurring Serious Health Consequences

    by  • 11 October 2011 • General News

    Greece’s debt crisis is bringing on dire health consequences that, researchers say, might soon turn into a modern-day Greek tragedy, according to a new study.

    The study, published in The Lancet, found that rising unemployment and staggering debt in the past four years have led to serious health issues among the most vulnerable Greeks.

    Many Greeks have been unable to get medical care because of hospital budget cuts and staffing problems and, in general, health has worsened since the financial crisis began.

    “We noted a significant rise in the prevalence of people reporting that their health was ‘bad” or ‘very bad,’” the authors wrote, led by Cambridge University’s Alexander Kentikelenis.

    The number of suicides increased by 17 percent between 2007 and 2009, and the Greek Parliament reported a 25 percent increase between 2009 and 2010.  That number is still rising: The number of suicides was 40 percent higher in the first half of 2011 than during the same period in 2010.

    The researchers also expect the number of new HIV infections to increase by 52 percent this year, about half of them among intravenous drug users.  Heroin use, prostitution and unsafe sex practices also increased, but budget cuts have made it difficult for many people to get help from governmental programs.

    “Overall, the picture of health in Greece is concerning. It reminds us that, in an effort to finance debts, ordinary people are paying the ultimate price: losing access to care and preventive services, facing higher risks of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and in the worst cases losing their lives,” the authors wrote.

    In the United States, the economic downturn is also taking a toll on the mental health of many Americans.  One recent study found that suicide rates generally rise and fall depending on the economy.

    Depression and anxiety have also increased dramatically, according to experts.

    “When people began to get anxious or were worried about losing their jobs, it was clear there was an increased number of individuals that presented with anxiety and depression,” said Dr. Mark Rapaport, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.

    Rapaport also said that difficult economic circumstances have made it difficult for people to get the care they need.

    “One reason is that individuals are losing their health insurance and another one is the cost of health insurance is increasing radically, so a lot of people are electing to have care with very high deductibles, so they are unable or unwilling to seek care,” he said.

     Budget cuts, he said, have also decreased access to public programs.

    While there are no data yet to suggest that drug use is on the rise, Rapaport said that trend wouldn’t surprise him. “In times of stress, there are many problems,” he said, “so people tend to use coping strategies like using alcohol and drugs.”


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