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Economic crisis affects Greeks' health

ATHENS (AVRUPA TIMES) “I lost my job, my family doesn’t want to talk to me, and my kids feel embarrassed for me so I felt there was nothing left for me.”


Nikos has been hospitalized for more than a year in a Greek psychiatric clinic after an attempted suicide.  


Like many Greeks he has been hit hard by the economic crisis.


According to telephone survey released earlier this month, 44 percent of the Greek citizens say they were experiencing negative emotions such as insecurity, agony, fear, anger, despair, stress or anxiety due to the economic crisis. 


Conducted by poll institute Greek Public Opinion for the National School of Public Health regarding the state of health care of the Greek population during the economic crisis, the survey shows a higher percentage of people with lower income have said be suffering from depression-linked illnesses. 


Ourania Savva a social worker in the A’ Psychiatric Clinic - Eginition Hospital of the University of Athens said: “What we see in general is that the last five years, there is an increase in psychological problems and entries in the psychiatric clinics, especially for substance dependencies like alcohol.”


She added that another factor for this increase was the growing lack of financial means for Greeks to visit private clinics or institutes thus forcing them to seek assistance in public institutions.


However, the reductions in staff and a decrease in state funding for mental health services have weakened them to the point where they have found themselves unable to cope with the increase of patients.


“From what we see, this has to do with the economic problems that the people are facing,” says Savva who has been working in the psychiatric clinic for 23 years. “People are without jobs, taxes have increased, and shops have shut down. This of course has a negative impact on people’s psychology.”


Nearly 27.9 percent of the population could not find a job between 2009 and 2014, according to the Statistical Office of the European Union (EuroStat).


Employment was at  38.15 percent in September, according to ministry statistics. Part-time employment, however, has increased by 15.46 percentage points and shift work added 7.71 percentage points, suggesting that those who cannot find full-time jobs are obliged to work fewer hours and earn less.


According to the survey, about a third of the Greek population says it cannot pay bills and debts and 25 percent of the Greeks have not sought medical treatment for an illness due to financial reasons.


‘’Since august when we faced the most difficult situation since the beginning of the crisis, I have seen myself deteriorating psychologically,” said a patient at a psychiatric clinic who wants to remain anonymous said. “My self-esteem was low and my only gateway was to have a drink.” 


’What I have noticed is a sharp increase in reports of depression among our clients, with themes related to a loss of their income, loss of their job and/or job uncertainty and consequently a loss of their expected quality of life,” says Chrysoula Kostogiannis, a clinical psychologist and director at the Hellenic Institute for Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy.


“People also perceive the current economic situation as ‘never ending’ which also leads them to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness,” she adds. “It is important for people with depression to acknowledge the current financial crises and all it's [sic] consequences on a personal & cultural level and work on to their negative thoughts that lead to their depression."


 Still, according to a recent study from the Medical School of Athens University, unemployment, poverty and anxiety will affect Greeks’ health all to way to 2030 as 18.6 percent of the population is expected to show signs of cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, coronary diseases, etc.) while 15.4 percent will suffer strokes.

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