Economic crises prompt an increase in suicides, homicides and fatal heart attacks, but also a fall in road deaths, according to a European study published by The Lancet on Wednesday.
Every one-percent rise in unemployment leads to an increase in suicides of 0.79 percent among people aged under 65 and a similar rise in homicides, say British researchers, poring over figures from European countries.
AdvertisementBy contrast, road mortality slumps by 1.39 percent, because people walk more and drive less.
The researchers at Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine used data from 26 countries from the European Union (EU) between 1970 and 2007.
They say many of the premature deaths can be eased through "active labor market programmes" by governments.
Every 10 dollars (7.2 euros) spent per person on supporting families, housing costs and providing unemployment compensation reduces the unemployment-related suicide rate by 0.038 percent.
"Financial crisis causes hardship for many ordinary people, but it does not have to cost them their lives," lead investigator David Stuckler said.
"Our findings show that investing in active labor market programmes can both help the economy and save lives."
The researchers admitted that the study had several limitations, and only applied to rich countries, not poor economies.
Figures from central and eastern Europe were sketchy or missing in some areas, and there were indirect ways in which a crisis could affect health.
But, they said, their picture could be an under-estimate.
Stress, anxiety, changes in nutrition are among the longer-term impacts on health, and some parts of the population are more vulnerable than others, but this is masked by general data.
"We investigated only the short-term consequences of economic turmoil, i.e. of less than three years," they said.
"Some effects of the Great Depression seem to have been manifest only five to seven years after the bank crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s."