The current global financial crisis may turn out to be a major killer, and could send suicide and homicide rates soaring, says a new Lancet study.
Researchers at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxford University headed the study to examine the possibility that health might suffer as a result of the market crashes.
Lead author David Stuckler, a social epidemiologist, estimated that increased stress stemming from job losses could prompt a 2.4 per cent rise in suicide rates in people who are less than 64 years old.
Another 2.7 per cent rise in heart attack deaths could be expected in men between 30 and 44 years, along with a 2.4 per cent increase in homicides rates, corresponding to thousands of deaths in European Union countries.
The report, titled 'The public health effect of economic crises and alternative policy responses in Europe: Aan empirical analysis,' suggested that key government investments in labour market protection could prevent more deaths.
Stuckler said, "A financial crisis causes hardship for many ordinary people, but it does not have to cost them their lives. Our findings show that investing in active labour market programmes can both help the economy and save lives."
Professor Martin McKee at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and one of the report's authors, added, "Suicides are just the tip of the iceberg -- rising suicide rates are a sign of many failed suicide attempts and high levels of mental distress among workers and families."
Sanjay Basu, at the University of California at San Francisco, noted, "The analysis suggests that governments may be able to do something to protect their populations, specifically by budgeting for measures that help people get back into work. This report shows that government spending programmes designed to stimulate the economy could also be used to prevent potentially thousands of deaths."