The continuing worldwide economic crisis and austerity measures have raised concerns about the impact of economic conditions on public health.
An article published in the American Journal of Public Health, co-authored by a Queen Mary, University of London Research Fellow, shows that economic recession and austerity policies imposed in Greece have had detrimental effects on health services and health outcomes.
The study, led by researchers at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and the University of New Mexico in the United States , analysed current data on economic and social conditions, use of health services, and health outcomes.
Key public health indicators were found to have deteriorated in association with economic crisis and austerity policies that reduced public services. After 14 years of continuous economic expansion since 1994, Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) started showing zero or close to zero growth rates since the fourth quarter of 2007 and negative growth rates from the fourth quarter of 2008 onwards.
Between 2007 and 2009, suicide and homicide mortality rates among men increased by 22.7 per cent and 27.6 per cent. Mental disorders, substance abuse, and infectious diseases showed deteriorating trends during 2010 and 2011.
Despite worsening health conditions the Ministry of Health’s total expenditures fell by 23.7 per cent between 2009 and 2011. Meanwhile, due to unemployment and loss of personal income, patients decreased their use of private medical facilities, and use of already stressed public inpatient and primary care services rose by 6.2 per cent and 21.9 per cent between 2010 and 2011.
Dr. Elias Kondilis, lead author of the study and a Research Fellow at Queen Mary’s Global Health, Policy and Innovation unit, said: “We were expecting that these austerity policies would negatively affect health services and health outcomes, but the results were much worse than we imagined.”*
Based on their findings, the authors criticize austerity policies that are likely to cause deteriorating health conditions in other European countries and in the United States.
“Economic crisis, restrictive policies, and the population’s health and health care: The Greek case” Elias Kondilis, M.D., Ph.D., Stathis Giannakopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., Magda Gavana, M.D., Ph.D., Ioanna Ierodiakonou, M.D., Ph.D., Howard Waitzkin, M.D., Ph.D., and Alexis Benos, M.D., Ph.D., American Journal of Public Health, Published online ahead of print April 18, 2013: e1–e8. doi:10.2105/ AJPH.2012.301126
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