The financial crisis makes Greek sick

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A study shows massive health risks for Greeks in times of crisis

A recently published study shows a causality between the health risk and the worsening recession in Greece. Accordingly, the Greek financial crisis has a significant impact on people's health.

It has long been known that an approaching or already existing poverty makes people really sick. People who find themselves in a precarious situation have unequal access to the health system. In general, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases is observed in such situations. The risk of becoming infected with incurable diseases such as AIDS through the HI virus is increasing rapidly. The risk of death also increases because people are increasingly suffering from stress, depression or cardiovascular diseases.

In the English specialist magazine "The Lancet", researchers from the Sociological Faculty of the University of Cambridge published a study that examined the health development of the Greeks in recent years. The sociologists used the appropriate title as the subtitle: "The forerunner of a Greek tragedy". The research team from sources from the Greek Ministry of Health and the European Union (EU) used the data composition. Right from the start, the study authors wrote of a "worrying deterioration in health data" since the country has been struggling with the consequences of the financial crisis. However, the study only shows a bitter foretaste of what will come. Because the effects of data analysis can only be guessed at today because the worst effects for the people of Greece are still to come.

More suicides and HIV infections
The data provided by the Ministry of Health have shown a massive increase in suicides since 2010. In 2010 the rate had already increased by 25 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. In the first half of 2011, the rate even jumped up by 40 percent compared to the first half of 2010. Although the data cannot be used to research the exact causes, a connection to the current situation in Greece is essential. In view of increasing poverty and lack of prospects, many people seem to lack the reason to continue living. If the sufferers already suffer from depressive episodes, external conditions can increase the suffering.

The experts also saw a rapid increase in HIV infections. Due to the increase at the end of 2010, the data evaluation gave an extremely poor forecast. For example, the scientists predict a 52 percent increase in new infections in 2011 by more than 900 this year. Initial figures from the last seven months of 2011 showed that ten times more drug addicts were infected with the HI virus than in the same period in 2010, as the researchers emphasized. "The connection to the financial crisis is that addicts no longer get odd jobs, no alms or no pocket money from their parents," explained study leader Alexander Kentikelenis. Many have to sell their bodies in order to get any money at all. At the same time, heroin use also increased. This increase has been most evident since, due to the austerity measures, social workers are no longer working in government-funded programs. The government has cut or abolished social programs in the past two years.

More crimes in Greece
At the same time as the increase in infectious diseases, the study work also saw an increase in crimes. The number of theft and violence has almost doubled between 2007 and 2009, according to results. During the same period, around 40 percent fewer people in Greece were able to receive sickness benefits.

It was surprising, however, that alcohol consumption dropped significantly in the years examined. At the same time, the “alcohol at the wheel” crimes fell. According to the sociologists, there are opportunities for the state to "improve the situation of people". On the other hand, falling consumption can also be a sign of the lower purchasing power of the Greeks.

Situation will worsen
However, it can be expected that the situation of the people will worsen even further. A German study from 2010 commissioned by the German Trade Union Confederation DGB showed that long-term unemployment made people sick. Because unemployment leads to a “stressful situation of its own kind”, as the study authors reported at the time. The consequences, however, only become apparent after a few years. The most common diseases of the long-term unemployed include metabolic disorders such as diabetes, mental illnesses such as depression or cardiovascular diseases. (sb)

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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Video: The Greek Financial and Political Crisis

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