Greek crisis has biological health effects

September 24, 2013

Young adults in Greece suffer more from stress and mental health problems and are less optimistic about the future than Swedes of the same age. The grave financial problems in Greece have brought on a social crisis that has probably affected people's health, according to a study from Linköping University.

In the study, recently published in the scientific journal PLOS One, groups of students at Athens University and Linköping University replied to questions about their health and perceived stress.

The results show that in every respect, the Greek students reported poorer health than the Swedish students. On the other hand, the biologically measured levels of the were higher amongst the Greeks – the opposite to what was expected.

"This should not be interpreted as saying that the students in Athens were less stressed than those in Linköping. We know from other studies that people who are depressed or are "burned out", or suffer from syndrome actually have lower . People can handle shorter periods fo stress quite well, but after some time the body cannot manage the high stress levels and the cortisol levels start to fall. If the stress factors remain, it can also lead a ", says Tomas Faresjö, professor of and chief investigator for the study.

The differences in participants' health and quality of life were very clear. For instance, 42% of the Greek students (52 of 124) had experienced serious life events, compared to 23% of the Swedish students. 47% of the Greeks reported stress compared 21% of the Swedes. 24% of the Greeks had no hope for the future, a view shared by just 5% of the Swedes.

"The study shows that the health of young Greeks is considerably worse than that of young Swedes. One can suspect that the social crisis in Greece is beginning to have biological effects on the residents of the country", says Dr Faresjö.

Biological stress levels were measured using hair. This is a completely new method that has been further developed by the research group in Linköping. It makes it possible to measure the release of cortisol backward in time. The levels leave their mark in the hair, and since hair grows about one centimetre a month it is possible to see how stressed the person has been in recent months.

Explore further: Exercise shields children from stress

More information: Higher perceived stress but lower cortisol levels found among young Greek adults living in a stressful social environment in comparison with Swedish young adults. By Å. Faresjö, E Theodorsson, M Chatziarsenis, V Sapouna, H-P Claesson, J Koppner and T Faresjö. PLOS ONE, 8(9), 16 September 2013.

Related Stories

Exercise shields children from stress

March 7, 2013

Exercise may play a key role in helping children cope with stressful situations, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Optimists better at regulating stress

July 23, 2013

It's no surprise that those who tend to see a rose's blooms before its thorns are also better at handling stress. But science has failed to reliably associate optimism with individuals' biological stress response – until ...

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.