• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

Spring Donation Drive

CounterPunch is a lifeboat piggybank-icon of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health

For the last several years, Greece has been going through a protracted and damaging economic crisis that has had profound consequences on the health of the Greek people. The economic crisis has predominantly impacted the health of vulnerable populations with a rise in suicides and deaths due to mental and behavioral disorders.

Although other European countries such as Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain, have also experienced economic upheavals, the continuous downturn in Greece’s economy has had a more profound effect than in the other countries with a similar situation. As one Greek friend recently told me, “Greece is like an elevator that only goes down….”

Rather than promoting more protection for the poor in critical situations, the “Troika” (European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) has forced the Greek government to adopt austerity policies that will inevitably lead to reduced access to basic human services, particularly among the poor.

The economic crisis has not been equally harmful to other sectors of society. For example, while those with higher incomes seem to have some protection from suicides in times of crisis, economic downturns create conditions of greater vulnerability. This is also due to increased dysfunction of the mental health services, seriously affected by the crisis. There is, in that regard, a paradoxical situation in which mental health services are less effective when they are most needed.

Although historically Greece had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in their number. “The passage of new austerity measures in June 2011 marked the beginning of significant, abrupt and sustained increases in total suicides and male suicides,” reports a 2015 British Medical Journal study. Overall, attempted suicides have increased by 36 percent between 2009 and 2011, and there has also been a parallel increase in the prevalence of people with major depressive disorders.

The increasing number of injecting drug users (IDUs) has resulted in rising numbers of people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections, who have also been impacted by disruptions of preventive programs. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of new HIV infections among drug users rose from 15 to 484. According to the Lancet, the cases of tuberculosis in this population more than doubled between 2012 and 2013.

Greek hospitals are also on the brink of collapse. Government health spending fell 25 percent between 2009 and 2012, and spending on drugs dropped by 32 percent since 2010. Public hospitals have had to drastically cut their budgets, in some cases by as much as 50 percent, firing staff, cutting back on testing kits and supplies and abstaining from hiring new doctors to replace those who have retired or have left the country.

Health coverage has been affected by cost-cutting measures. Because health care in the country is linked to employment status or social security plans, rising unemployment levels and government social security cuts have left many people without health insurance. In addition, many middle income people who had private coverage are now turning to state hospitals. The influx of new patients is putting extra pressure on the already overburdened health care staff.

Greece, which was one of the countries with the highest rate of physicians per population in the world, has seen a mass exodus of health professionals to rich countries with fewer doctors. InAthens alone, some 4,000 doctors have left the city since the crisis began and spending cuts were imposed on the health sector, according to reports from the city’s medical association. There is also a high number of top scientists who have left the country.

The exodus of doctors has been aggravated by the shortage of drugs and medical supplies, as a result of drug companies’ suspension of supplies because of unpaid bills.
In addition, it is estimated that a third of graduate nurses will remain unemployed for up to four years after graduation, while emergency nurses are working overtime and with fewer resources.

Increases in certain illness, such as heart attacks and respiratory problems are associated with the chronic stress suffered by Greeks and worsening living conditions engendered by the crisis. Not surprisingly, measures of self-rated health have also consistently fallen throughout the crisis. As a group of Greek scholars warned the government in an open letter, “You have no right to obtain credit by degrading the health of your compatriots and by sending to an early grave the most vulnerable among us.”

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
Howie Hawkins
Does the Climate Movement Really Mean What It Says?
Gary Leupp
Bolton and the Road to the War He Wants
Jill Richardson
Climate Change was No Accident
Josh Hoxie
Debunking Myths About Wealth and Race
David Barsamian
Iran Notes
David Mattson
Social Carrying Capacity Politspeak Bamboozle
Christopher Brauchli
The Pompeo Smirk
Louis Proyect
Trotsky, Bukharin and the Eco-Modernists
Martha Burk
Will Burning at the Stake Come Next?
John W. Whitehead
The Deadly Perils of Traffic Stops in America
Binoy Kampmark
The Christchurch Pledge and a Regulated Internet
David Rosen
Florida’s Sex Wars: the Battle to Decriminalize Sex Work
Ralph Nader
Trump: Importing Dangerous Medicines and Food and Keeping Consumers in the Dark
Brett Haverstick
America’s Roadless Rules are Not Protecting Public Wildlands From Development
Alan Macleod
Purity Tests Can be a Good Thing
Binoy Kampmark
Modern Merchants of Death: the NSO Group, Spyware and Human Rights
Kim C. Domenico
Anarchism & Reconciliation, Part II
Peter LaVenia
Game of Thrones and the Truth About Class (Spoiler Warning)
Manuel E. Yepe
The Options Trump Puts on the Table
Renee Parsons
The Pompeo/Bolton Tag Team
David Swanson
Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment
Cesar Chelala
Lowering Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Problems are Deeper than “Capitalism” (and “Socialism” Alone Can’t Solve Them)
Chris Zinda
Delegislating Wilderness
Robert Koehler
War’s Unanswered Questions
Robert P. Alvarez
Let Prison Inmates Vote
Barbara Nimri Aziz
A Novel We Can All Relate To
David Yearsley
Carmen’s Mother’s Day Lessons
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ziya Tong’s “The Reality Bubble”
Elliot Sperber
Pharaoh’s Dream
Elizabeth Keyes
Somewhere Beyond Corporate Media Yemenis Die
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail