, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 851-858
Date: 21 Jan 2014

Short-term effects of the 2008 Great Recession on the health of the Italian population: an ecological study

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To report on the effects on health that the 2008 Great Recession is producing in Italy, by comparing the consistency of Italian data with general observations reported in the scientific literature, and by pointing out consequences on the rates of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, male suicidal behaviours, daytime alcohol drinking and traffic fatalities.


This is an ecological study in which MEDLINE, PsycINFO and PubMed were searched for the literature with combinations of the following keywords: economic recession, financial crisis, unemployment, health, suicide and mental health. Data from two Italian government agencies (Italian Institute of Statistics, ISTAT, and Italian Agency of Drugs, AIFA) in the years from 2000 to 2010 were obtained and analysed, by producing models of multiple linear regressions.


After the recession onset, all-cause mortality remained stable, and was not associated with the economic fluctuations. Differently, cardiovascular mortality was associated with the rate of unemployment, and showed a significant increase in 2010. Alcohol consumption increased in 2009, the year with the worst real GDP decrease (−5.1 %). Though the total rate of suicide was not associated with the economic situation, male completed and attempted suicides due to financial crisis were significantly associated with the rate of unemployment and the real GDP. The increasing diffusion of antidepressants was not associated with a lowering of the rate of suicide.


The data on the Italian situation here discussed are sufficiently reliable to conclude that a link exists between the ongoing economic recession and health and mental health of Italians. Further research is needed to understand more in detail and with stronger reliability such link, to support primary and secondary preventive interventions and orient the development of effective sociopolitical interventions.

Some of the results reported in this paper were presented at the annual scientific XIV Meeting of the European Association for Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatics (Budapest, 30 June–2 July 2011), at the XX European Congress of Psychiatry (Prague, 3–6 March 2012) and at the XI European Congress of Psychiatry (Nice 6–9 April 2013) [12, 13].