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Mind

The Recession and Death

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticOctober 1, 2011 8:51 PM

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The present economic crisis has led to more suicides in Europe - but fewer deaths in road traffic accidents.

So says a brief report in The Lancet. The authors show that suicide rates in people under the age of 65, which have been falling for several years in Europe, rose in 2008 and again in 2009, in line with unemployment figures. The overall effect was fairly small - 2009 was no worse than 2006. It still corresponds to a 5% annual increase in most countries. In Greece, Ireland, and Latvia the rise was about 15%.

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That's sad but not perhaps very surprising.

What's interesting though is that road traffic fatalities fell sharply. In Lithuania, they dropped by nearly half, although they were very high to begin with, and in Spain and Ireland they fell by 25%.

This presumably reflects the fact that people are just driving less, and perhaps slower. We've got less money to spend on fuel, and fewer jobs and things to need to drive to.

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The authors note that although fewer road deaths is generally a good thing, there's one downside - a shortage of donor organs for transplantation. Road accidents are a prime source of organs because they're one of the few times that young, healthy people die leaving most of the body intact.

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Stuckler D, Basu S, Suhrcke M, Coutts A, & McKee M (2011). Effects of the 2008 recession on health: a first look at European data. Lancet, 378 (9786), 124-5 PMID: 21742166

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