Lead author Dr. Elias Kondilis, a researcher at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and Dr. Howard Waitzkin, a distinguished professor emeritus of sociology and medicine at the University of New Mexico, studied current data on economic and social conditions, utilization of health services and health outcomes.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found key public health indicators -- homicides, suicides, mental disorders, substance abuse and infectious diseases -- declined in tandem with the recession and austerity policies that reduced public services.
"We were expecting that these austerity policies would negatively affect health services and health outcomes, but the results were much worse than we imagined," the researchers said in a statement.
In contrast to the Greek experience, the authors pointed to several Latin American countries that resisted demands to reduce public investments in health services and led to improved economic and health indicators.
Based on their findings, the study authors criticized austerity policies likely to cause deteriorating health conditions in other European countries and in the United States.
"The policies of cutbacks currently proposed in the United States for Medicare and Social Security will lead to similar devastating effects on health services and outcomes," Waitzkin said.