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Economic Murder: How and Why Austerity Kills

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Posted on May 21, 2013
Democracy Now1

Austerity has caused more than 10,000 suicides and as many as 1 million additional cases of depression across Europe and the United States, economist David Stuckler and physician Sanjay Basu estimate.

In the opening of their recent article in The New York Times headlined “How Austerity Kills,” Stuckler and Basu tell the story of Anna Maria Sopranzi, 68, and Romeo Dionisi, 62, (pictured above) married Italians who were struggling to live on Sopranzi’s monthly pension of $650 and had fallen behind on rent.

“Because the Italian government’s austerity budget had raised the retirement age, Mr. Dionisi, a former construction worker, became one of Italy’s esodati (exiled ones)—older workers plunged into poverty without a safety net,” Stuckler and Basu write. “On April 5, he and his wife left a note on a neighbor’s car asking for forgiveness, then hanged themselves in a storage closet at home. When Ms. Sopranzi’s brother, Giuseppe [Sopranzi, who was] 73, heard the news, he drowned himself in the Adriatic.”

The article was published a week before the release of Stuckler and Basu’s book on the health impacts of austerity across the globe, “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills—Recessions, Budget Battles, and the Politics of Life and Death.” Stuckler is an economist, a public health specialist and a senior researcher at Oxford University. Basu is a physician and epidemiologist who teaches at Stanford University.

“Unemployment, job loss, foreclosure, unpayable debt are risks to health,” Stuckler told “Democracy Now!” on Tuesday. “But what ultimately matters is how politicians respond. And when they make large cuts to social supports, social protections, they can turn recessions into severe epidemics.”

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