Stress and perceived health among primary care visitors in two corners of Europe: Scandinavia and Greece
AuthorKoppner, Jenny; Chatziarzenis, Marios; Faresjö, Tomas; Theodorsson, Elvar; Thorsell, Annika; Nilsson, Staffan; Olsen, Ole; Faresjö, Åshild Olsen
Methods - A cross-sectional comparative study of adult (18–65 years) Primary Health Care visitors from semi-rural areas in Greece (n = 84) and Scandinavia (n = 140). Data collection was performed in 2012, and encompassed a questionnaire with a variety of health and stress indicators as well as hair samples for analyzes of cortisol levels.
Results - The Greek sample reported significantly poorer overall health (p < 0.0001) than the Scandinavians and a significantly higher perceived stress (p < 0.0001). The Greeks were also less hopeful of the future (p < 0.0001), and to a larger extent fulfilled the HAD criteria for depression (p < 0.0001) and anxiety (p = 0.002). The strongest predictors explaining ill health in logistic regressions were being Greek (p = 0.001) and feeling hopeless about the future p = 0.001, OR = 6.00 (CI 2.10–14.88). Strong predictors in logistic regressions for high perceived stress were anxiety: high (p < 0.0001) and medium (p = 0.0001), as well as medium depression (p = 0.02).
Conclusions - Greek adult Primary Health Care visitors perceived their health more negatively than the Scandinavians, including a higher presence of depression, anxiety, and a lower hope for the future. The Greeks also reported higher perceived stress, but this was not reflected in higher cortisol levels. The findings presented here, identify possible adverse long-term effects of the economic crisis in the examined Greek population that are not seen in the Scandinavian cohort. These differences may also be interpreted against the background of socio-cultural differences in the northern and south-eastern corners of Europe.