Great Depression-2008 has left a trail of miseries in almost every country in the world, including the most powerful United States of America. A long-term effect of the financial crisis is its impact on the general health of the people.
A research study in Greece, which has been affected by the financial turmoil more than any other European country, shows irreversible health effects on the general population – many losing access to care and preventive services, facing higher risks of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and in the worst cases losing their lives.
A study by researchers based on socio-demographic data, reports from medical research institutes, health prefectures and non-governmental organizations, shows a significant increase in people reporting they did not go to a medical practitioner, compared to pre-crisis period. The reasons are many – inability to afford care, long waiting times, travel distance to public medical facilities, etc.
The turmoil has also affected the functioning of medical facilities – there were about 40 per cent cuts in hospital budgets, understaffing, shortage of medical supplies, etc. On the contrary, admissions in public hospitals have increased – 24 per cent in 2010 compared with 2009 and 8 per cent in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period of 2010.
There are signs that health outcomes have worsened among vulnerable groups – a significant rise in suicides, 17 per cent in 2009 and 25 per cent in 2010, while it was 40 per cent in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. The national suicide helpline reported about 25 per cent of callers faced financial difficulties in 2010, which is attributed to inability to repay high levels of personal debts.
Other bad omens of the financial crisis are – increased violence; homicide and theft rates have nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009. There has been a significant increase in HIV infections in late 2010 – 52 per cent in 2011 compared with 2010, with half of the new cases attributable to infections among intravenous drug users. There is also a rise in prevalence of heroin usage by 20 per cent in 2009.
With health services hit badly by public funding, ordinary people pay the ultimate price. A brighter side of the crisis is a marked reduction in alcohol consumption and, according to police data, decrease in cases of drunken-driving.