Suicides increased by 45 per cent during the first four years of Greece's financial crisis, a mental health aid group said. It warned there are indications of a further "very large rise" over the past two years.
The Athens-based group Klimaka said officially reported suicides rose steadily, with deaths rising from 328 in 2007 to 477 in 2011, according to data from the Greek Statistical Authority.
The group said, based on its own research, the number of suicides had continued to rise last year and into this year.
Greece still has one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but a dramatic rise in poverty and unemployment since the debt-strapped nation began imposing harsh austerity measures has been blamed for the increase.
Klimaka head psychiatrist Aris Violatzis said the organisation gathered data from families of victims, churches and funeral homes as well as official statistics.
"The official stats are generally lagging. Our data suggests a very large rise. We are talking about specific individuals whose names and circumstances have been recorded," Violatzis said.
Klimaka, which runs a suicide prevention hotline, said men killed themselves more than four times as frequently as women, with males most commonly in their mid-50s and females in their late 30s. Some 43 per cent of suicides in 2011 involved unemployed people, while 25.7 per cent of hotline callers with suicidal thoughts last year said they were in dire financial difficulties.
"For every suicide death, there are some 30 attempts by others," Violatzis said. "So we are creating a growing bank of people who are potentially suicidal. That is a long-term problem."