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Findings are mixed but evidence is strongest for suicides and mental health problems

A review of studies investigating the 2008 recession in Europe show it was associated with adverse health outcomes, particularly for suicides and mental health problems, finds a study in The BMJ today.

However, the authors warn that most published studies on this topic had a substantial risk of bias and therefore results need to be cautiously interpreted.

In 2008, Europe entered a period of unprecedented financial crisis following a global economic downturn. Yet despite growing interest in the impact of the crisis on the health of populations, the evidence so far has been fragmented.

So a team of researchers based at City University in London and Stanford University in California analysed studies reporting on the impact of the European financial crisis on health outcomes, published from January 2008 to December 2015.

A total of 41 studies met the inclusion criteria and were analysed, the vast majority focused on two countries – Spain and Greece. The main health outcomes that these studies explored were suicides and mental health.

All studies were assessed for risk of bias. Of these, 29 (73%) were deemed to be at high risk of bias, nine (23%) at moderate risk of bias, and only two at low risk of bias, limiting the conclusions that could be drawn.

Although there were differences across countries and groups, there was some indication that suicides increased during the financial crisis, particularly among men.

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