Economic crisis: Saving banks or saving lives?

In countries where spending on healthcare is high, suicide and homicide rates are lower than societies with less well-funded services.

The level of spending on healthcare during an economic crisis can affect the number of suicides and homicides, new research published by the European Health Forum (EHF) has revealed.

The findings were unveiled at the twelfth annual EHF congress – the leading health policy conference for decision-makers and experts in the European Union – in Gastein, in the Austrian Alps. Dr David Stuckler, social epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of the report, told the conference that it was now more important than ever for the State to intervene.

He said:

“Cutting public health services is not a price worth paying – times of crisis are when people need help from their governments the most.

“In Sweden, where spending on health and social care per capita is relatively high, economic crisis did not result in higher suicide rates. In contrast, in Spain, where the public healthcare system is less well-resourced, suicide rates have risen sharply as unemployment increased.

“There is strong evidence that investing in health promotes economic growth. Financial crisis creates an opportunity to align economic stimulus with improved public health. For less than one per cent the money spent to rescue the financial system, we could prevent any additional deaths from the crisis.

“What is right in a boom is also right in crisis – it is just more urgent.”

Also on the agenda in Gastein are proposals for a Europe-wide policy on tackling cancer, the second most common cause of death in the EU, accounting for two out of every ten deaths in women and three out of every ten deaths in men. Each year, 3.2 million EU citizens are diagnosed with cancer – a figure likely to increase as the population ages unless co-ordinated action is taken.

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