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Study: fewer births and more stillbirths due to austerity

Birthrate down 10% while stllbirths jump by 21.5%, research shows

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Public health study notes that decrease in birthrate and increase in stillbirths accompanied the dramatic fall in GDP from 2009 to 2011 and the increasing rates of unemployment, particularly among women, from 2008 to in 2011

New research shows that there are fewer newborns to measure as a result of the crisis (Photo: Reuters) New research shows that there are fewer newborns to measure as a result of the crisis (Photo: Reuters) Austerity has fuelled a dramatic decrease in the birthrate and a rapid increase in stillbirths in Greece and is directly related to the increase in unemployment, research from National School of Public Health (ESDY) has shown.

The research, whose findings were published in Sunday's Eleftherotypia, found that from 2009 to 2011, the birthrate has fallen consistently, from 10.45 births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2009, 10.15 births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2010 and 9.39 births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2011, an overall decrease of 10.13%.

Since 2008 to 2011, the rate of stillbirths has increased 21.5%, from 3.31 per 1,000 in 2008, to 4.28 in 2009, 4.36 in 2010 and 4.01 in 2011.

The report notes that these trends accompanied the dramatic fall in GDP from 2009 to 2011 by 14.82% and the increasing rates of unemployment, particularly among women, from 11.7% in 2008 to 24.5% in 2011.

Efi Simou, who conducted the study, said: "The research findings should not surprise us because it is known from other studies that economic downturns can be associated with a reduction in births. On the one hand, periods of economic prosperity and growth appear to be accompanied by periods of increased birth rates while, on the other, an economic downturn means less births and an increase in stillbirths."

"The declining birthrate in Greece from 2009 onwards seems to have kept pace with the decline in GDP during the same period," Simou noted, adding that the country experienced an increase in birthrates from 2003 to sometime after 2004, a period of economic prosperity and improved living conditions for the population.

"At that time the number of births rose from 105,444 in 2004 to 107,166 in 2005 and 111,625 in 2006 (an increase of 5.86% from 2004 to 2006). The same trend emerged in 2005, the year following the Olympic Games and the success of winning the European Championship in football," she said.

Existing research has shown the strong correlation between an increase in stillbirths an a decline in access to healthcare.

In Greece, people who have been unemployed for over a year not only lose their benefits but also their public health insurance.

"The low birthrate, coupled with an increase in the population aged over 65, is alarming. In times of crisis, such as the present one, there is a compelling need for policies that, on the one hand, will motivate couples to have children and, on the other, will provide women with comprehensive prenatal and perinatal care, regardless of their economic or their employment situation," said Simou.

In Portugal, where severe austerity measures are also being applied to the economy, the birthrate has fallen 14% since 2008.

* The original Greek version of this article appeared in the print edition of Eleftherotypia on July 14
 

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