Noah denkt™ - The Power of Balanced Reasoning
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Is there a correlation between suicide rates and austerity in Euroland?
A brief look at the statistical numbers in selected Euro-member countries, initiated on June 7, published on
June 13, 2015
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    The harsh austerity measures imposed on the Greek public since the depths of country's financial crisis have led to a "significant,
    sharp, and sustained increase" in suicides, a study published in the British Medical Journal has found. The cutbacks, launched in
    June 2011, saw the total number of suicides rise by over 35 percent—equivalent to an extra 11.2 suicides every month—and
    remained at that level into 2012, according to a study published this week by the University of Pennsylvania, Edinburgh University
    and Greek health authorities.
    "The introduction of austerity measures in June 2011 marked the start of a significant, sharp, and sustained increase in suicides, to
    reach a peak in 2012," a statement accompanying the study said. ....

    Phillip Tutt: Greek austerity sparks sharp rise in suicides, Feb. 4, 2015, CNBC
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    There is no doubt that six years of deep recession in Greece have taken their toll on the population. The paper shows a statistically
    significant positive correlation between unemployment and male suicide, and an even more significant negative correlation
    between economic growth and male suicide. .... [But] the authors set out to show that “austerity” itself is a cause of suicide in
    general, and particularly for older people affected by cuts to their fixed incomes. And I’m afraid they failed. They simply did not
    adequately demonstrate correlation between government spending cuts and suicide rates, let alone a causative relationship. The
    best they could do was show statistical significance at the 5% confidence level between government spending cuts and male
    suicide rates only (not age dependent) for data from 1968-2011. With weak statistical significance on a reduced data set, these
    findings are insufficiently robust. They do not show that Greek government spending cuts increased suicide rates. There was a
    slightly stronger relationship between deficit reduction and suicide rates – but deficit reduction itself is not necessarily due to what
    we normally call “austerity”, namely government spending cuts and tax rises.

    Frances Coppola, Austerity and Suicide: The Case of Greece, April 24, 2014, Forbes


As austerity politics takes center stage so does the debate over the question whether austerity does or does
not drive people into suicide.
Noah denkt™ has maintained before that it is neither unemployment nor austerity
politics that pushes people over the edge. Instead it is our firm conviction that outside psycho-pathological
factors, it is first and foremost the individual’s perceived lack of hope that leads him or her to commit suicide.
Nevertheless, every life lost matters. And so we have taken it upon ourselves to look at the numbers ourselves.
And the breakdown for selected countries (in this case Germany, France, Latvia, Greece and Spain) is as
follows:
Country
Germany
France
Year
No of
Suicides*
Total
Population**
Suicide
rate
in %
Annual
unem-
ployment %**
No of
Suicides*
Total
Population**
Suicide
rate in %
Unemployment
rate in %**
2012
9896
80425823
0,0123
5,4
       
2011
10153
81797673
0,0124
5,9
       
2010
10030
81776930
0,0122
7,1
10379
65023142
0,0160
9,3
2009
9579
81902307
0,0116
7,7
10499
64702921
0,0162
9,1
2008
9459
82110397
0,0115
7,5
10353
64371099
0,0161
7,4
2007
9409
82266372
0,0114
8,6
10127
64012572
0,0158
8,0
2006
9775
82376451
0,0118
10,3
10423
63617975
0,0164
8,8
2005
10270
82469422
0,0124
11,1
10713
63176246
0,0196
8,9
2004
10741
82516260
0,0130
10,3
10804
62702121
0,0172
9,2
2003
11155
82534176
0,0135
9,3
10871
62242474
0,0175
8,6
2002
11176
82488495
0,0135
8,6
10643
61803229
0,0172
8,7
2001
11167
82349925
0,0135
7,8
10449
61355725
0,0170
8,6
2000
11073
82211508
0,0134
7,7
10849
60912057
0,0177
10,2
1999
11160
82100243
0,0135
8,4
10268
60495470
0,0170
12,0
1998
11654
82047195
0,0142
9,2
10534
60185178
0,0175
12,1
1997
12256
82034771
0,0149
9,8
11139
59963792
0,0186
12,6
1996
12225
81914831
0,0149
8,9
11279
59752020
0,0205
12,4
1995
12888
81678051
0,0158
8,1
11819
59540711
0,0198
11,8
1994
12718
81438348
0,0156
8,4
12041
59325793
0,0203
12,6
1993
12690
81156363
0,0156
7,9
12251
59105073
0,0207
11,3
1992
13458
80624598
0,0167
6,6
11644
58849212
0,0198
10,2
Country
Latvia
Greece
Spain
Year
No of
Suicides*
Sucide
Rate in %
Unemploy-
ment
rate in %**
No. of
Suicides*
Suicide
Rate in %
Unemploy-
ment rate
in %
No. of
Suicides*
Suicide
rate in %
Unemploy-
ment rate
in %
2012
443
0,0218
14,9
    24,2
    25,2
2011
440
0,0214
16,2
477
0,0043
17,7
3180
0,0068
21,7
2010
438
0,0217
18,7
377
0,0034
12,5
3158
0,0068
20,2
2009
516
0,0241
17,1
391
0,0035
9,5
3429
0,0074
18,1
2008
527
0,0242
7,4
373
0,0033
7,7
3457
0,0075
11,5
2007
453
0,0206
6,0
328
0,0029
8,3
3264
0,0072
8,4
2006
487
0,0220
6,8
394
0,0035
8,9
3247
0,0073
8,6
2005
564
0,0252
8,9
400
0,0036
9,8
3329
0,0076
9,3
2004
563
0,0249
9,9
353
0,0032
10,5
3508
0,0082
11.2
2003
604
0,0264
10,6
375
0,0034
9,7
3478
0,0082
11.5
2002
670
0,0290
13,2
323
0,0029
10,3
3372
0,0081
11.6
2001
708
0,0303
13,1
334
0,0030
10,2
3189
0,0078
10,7
2000
770
0,0325
14,2
382
0,0035
11,1
3394
0,0084
14,2
1999
764
0,0320
13,8
381
0,0035
11,7
3220
0,0081
15,9
1998
839
0,0348
14,5
403
0,0037
10,8
3261
0,0082
19,0
1997
886
0,0364
14,7
374
0,0035
9,6
3373
0,0085
21,1
1996
922
0,0375
12,4
356
0,0032
9,7
3320
0,0084
22,5
1995
1024
0,0412
12,5
370
0,0035
9,1
3157
0,0080
23,1
1994
1033
0,0410
14,6
355
0,0034
8,4
3171
0,0080
24,3
1993
1099
0,0429
12,8
412
0,0039
7,9
3037
0,0077
22,8
1992
921
0,0352
13,0
351
0,0034
6,6
2786
0,0071
18,4
*   Source: WHO       ** Source: World Bank
Naturally, everyone is invited to draw his or her own conclusions from these numbers. Noah denkt™, however,
would like to highlight the following observations:

  • In terms of total numbers, Greece’s suicide rate is even at 0,0043% significantly lower than that of all other
    countries mentioned in the table above. Obviously factors like climate, religion and history will be highly
    relevant to explain the generally lower suicide rates in Greece. Nevertheless the difference between
    Greece and equally sunny Spain is quite substantial in this respect.

  • The years of highest unemployment are not necessarily the years of the highest suicide rates. In the case
    of Latvia and Germany, for instance, the highest rates in both categories lie quite far apart. Clearly that
    difference must be explained by the significant turmoil that reunification in Germany and national
    independence in Latvia exerted on the local population. Nevertheless, it is also clear that there is some
    connection between high suicide rates and high unemployment rates. That correlation is particularly
    obvious in the case of France, Spain and Greece. But all five countries in the table above show some
    interdependence between unemployment and suicide rate.

  • Since the introductions of the so-called Hartz-reforms in Germany (2003-2005) which serve to some as a
    blueprint for the current austerity politics the total population in Germany has consistently declined.

  • 2009 is the year when the current Euro crisis came to the fore. France’s suicide rates in that time-frame
    have been lower than those from 1992 to the year 2000 when the French economy experienced double-
    digit unemployment rates. The same is true for Spain which from 1992 to 1998 registered equally high
    unemployment rates as it does at this time when austerity is hitting it hard.

  • Greece too experienced double-digit unemployment rates around the time of the introduction of the Euro
    currency. (2001) Its suicide rates however were only marginally more elevated at that time.

  • Latvia enacted extremely tough austerity programs from 2009 to 2010. (35 of 59 hospitals in the country
    were closed; more than 100 schools were closed; 2400 teachers were laid off; half of the 75 state agencies
    were terminated; a total of 23000 civil servants (29%) were dismissed) The suicide rate, however, did not
    change significantly. The stability of the Latvian suicide rate can only be explained by Latvia’s entrenched
    desire to exit the orbit of Russia’s influence and integrate more intimately with the European Union. In other
    words, austerity in Latvia was generally associated with the hope that such policies would ultimately
    increase the general welfare and well-being of the Latvian population. Greece’s body politics, in contrast,
    has no faith in austerity politics and no interest to adopt what it calls a neo-liberal social model. In fact, the
    country is altogether overwhelmed by the requirements that the membership in a first world currency
    imposes on it. Hence, it is not austerity politics but the inadequacy of the Euro for the Greek economy that
    accounts for the present rise in suicide rates.
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