In the last few years many suicides in Italy have been strongly linked to the economic crisis and unemployment. 357 people killed themselves in 2009, compared to the 260 of the previous year: a 37.3% growth. 76% of those people had lost their jobs or couldn’t find one due to the crisis, with a smaller percentage of younger people who were looking for their first job.
Employment emerges as one of the general key causes of suicides: 18.4 suicides were recorded every 100.000 unemployed people, against 4.1 among the employed. This confirms the importance of a job as a way to build and improve someone’s life, especially in the male population, which has the highest percentage of suicides in general.
Another factor linking the suicides to the crisis is represented by the large number of suicides for economic reasons. In 2009 the number reached its highest score in decades: 198 suicides, a 32% growth compared to 2008. The phenomenon is largely a male one, confirming how the loss of work is intrinsically linked to the loss of identity and social role among Italian men.
Most of the suicides were recorded in regions of the more industrialised North, but it is the South of Italy that has seen the most drastic increase of the phenomenon, with a growth of 11% only in 2009.
Dozens of widowed wives, renamed “white widows” by the Italian media, have been organising protests to draw attention on this increasing plight; check out this article from The Guardian about a march in Bologna last April (there’s more under the “Italy” tag). Also talked about on BBC4’s “Woman’s Hour” (chapter 1).
The number of suicides and attempted suicides has also been dramatically growing in Italian prisons. 2009 has seen the highest score of the last 20 years, with 72 inmates killing themselves. If compared with the rest of the population, the risk of suicides among prison inmates is 20 times higher.
The translation above is based on extracts from the 2010 EURES report “Suicides in Italy in Times of Crisis”. A summary in Italian can be downloaded here. EURES is a EU social research institute.