09/18/2013, 00.00
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Financial crisis boosts suicides, the rich

In 2009, in the midst of the crisis, 5,000 more people died from suicide compared to previous years. The higher mortality is linked to higher unemployment, touching mainly the young and the middle aged. Meanwhile, the rich got richer in America, with assets on average worth more than US$ 1.3 billion dollars in personal wealth. In China, there are 64 more billionaires than last year. The gap between rich and poor widens.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The 2008 financial crisis, with its massive layoffs and bankruptcies, led to a surge in suicides over the years, 5,000 more than expected globally. At the same time, many rich got richer, doubling their wealth in some cases.

A study by the University of Hong Kong with suicide data from the World Health Organisation's mortality database and the online database of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US shows that in 18 countries in the Americas the study covered, 3,500 more people killed themselves than would normally be expected. In 27 European countries, the figure was almost 3,000. By contrast, in Asia there were about 1,600 fewer suicides than expected, according to the research; including 114 fewer suicides in Hong Kong.

The study covered 54 countries from Europe, America, Asia and Africa, comparing suicides in 2009 with the expected numbers based on suicide trends between 2000 and 2007. It found that, in the midst of the economic crisis, more than 5,100 of the excess suicides were men.

Paul Yip Siu-fai, of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention who took part in the study, said the findings indicate that crisis seemed to have affected more young people in Europe and middle-aged people in America.

"Young people often feel hopeless without a job, while middle-aged people often find it hard to adjust after losing a stable job," he said.

According to the study, the jobless rates in European countries were up to 35 per cent higher in 2009 than in 2007, while there was a 94 per cent rise in North America.

The US suffered the most from this trend, the study shows, with almost 2,500 excess suicides, the highest of any country.

Along with latest suicide data, Forbes magazine published its list of wealthiest Americans. It shows that, five years after the financial crisis, America's super rich have recovered all their losses to see their wealth reach an all-time high.

The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record US$ 2.02 trillion, up from US.7 trillion last year. Now an aspiring plutocrat needs at least US.3 billion to make an aspiring plutocrat needs at least US.3 billion to make the list, the highest since just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent stock markets plummeting

Since the financial crisis hit five years ago, China also saw its rich get richer. The Hurun Report, a luxury magazine publisher, said that the country had 315 dollar billionaires, up 64 from a year ago. The average fortune of the top 1,000 stood at US$ 1.04 billion; more than double their US$ 440 million in 2008.

All over the world, the gap between rich and poor is becoming wider. In China, resentment towards the rich, often corrupt and well-connected with the Party and full of privileges, is up.

According to statistics from the Chinese government, China's Gini coefficient-which measures inequality in a society, with the greatest equality 0, 1 the maximum inequality-stood at 0.47 last year.

However, a study by the Survey and Research Centre for China Household Finance, a government-backed research group, said that last year China's Gini coefficient was 0.61 in 2010, one of the highest in the world.

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