7.1 General context
On this page
Main trends in the health conditions of young people
This section provides the context for recent trends in the health status of young people in Greece, as derived from national and international research data:
According to a European Union survey for 2021 based mainly on national official statistics provided to Eurostat and the OECD, which showed that the health status of the Greek population is good and life expectancy is higher than the European average. Extensive health system reforms have been underway since 2010, including the strengthening and expansion of public primary care services. Emphasis on prevention and treatment of risk factors was also strengthened through a new national public health plan. Challenges remain in ensuring accessibility and affordability of care, particularly due to high out-of-pocket payments from patients and the impact of the pandemic.
Alcohol consumption: Occasional binge drinking in 2019 was reported by only 6% of Greek adults, which is one of the lowest levels among EU countries. Men report engaging in occasional binge drinking more often than women (9% vs. 3 %). As for teenagers, the proportion of 15-year-olds who report that have been drunk at least twice in their lifetime has been fairly stable over the past two decades, standing at approximately 20% in 2018 — lower than in most EU countries.
Drug addiction: According to the survey of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction EMCDDA (2020), The Current Situation of Drug Abuse and Alcohol Consumption in Greece, 11.0% of the sample reported cannabis use at least once in their lifetime, 2.8% reported use in the past year (recent use) and 1.3% in the past month (very recent use). Substance use, other than cannabis, even once in their lifetime was reported by 1.6% of the sample.
More specifically, regarding the use of cannabis:
• Men are more than twice as likely to report cannabis use as women (15.8% and 6.3%, respectively, for at least once in their lifetime use and 4.1% and 1.6%, respectively, for recent substance use).
• Compared to people aged 50-64, a higher proportion of people aged 35-49 reported cannabis use at least once in their lifetime (6.3% and 14.9%, respectively), and a higher proportion of people aged 18-34 reported recent use (0.9% and 4.5%, respectively).
Recent data on substance use among the youth population of Greece is available from the Greek part of the European Commission's Eurobarometer public opinion survey entitled "Young adults and substance use" (No. 401), which was conducted via telephone in 2014 among a sample of 500 people aged 15-24 years.
According to the survey data:
• Cannabis use even once in a lifetime was reported by 17%, with 9% reporting recent use (past 12 months) and 2% very recent (past 30 days) use of the substance. In Greece, the rate of cannabis use was almost half to that observed for all 28 countries (31%).
• Use of "modern" psychoactive substances, i.e. substances that mimic the action of illegal substances such as cannabis, ecstasy or cocaine, was reported by 5%, lower than the percentage observed in all countries (8%). In Greece, in 2014 the percentage of "modern" psychoactive substances use was increased by approximately 3 percentage points compared to 2011, an increase similar to that observed in all countries.
Tobacco smoking: The prevalence of smoking has declined over the past two decades: in 2000 over a third of the population smoked regularly. In 2019, one out of four Greek adults smoked on a daily basis, which is still one of the highest percentage in EU countries. As in many other countries, men are much more likely to smoke compared to women (31% vs. 19 %).
In 2019, stricter legislation was launched to extend and enforce smoking ban both indoors and in designated outdoor public places, including restaurants and bars. In 2018, less than one out of five (18%) 15-year-olds in Greece reported having smoked in the past month, a percentage that has fallen slightly over the past decade and is similar to EU average. However, e-cigarette use has become more popular among teenagers and about one out of ten 15- and 16-year-olds in Greece reported having smoked e-cigarettes in 2019, although this rate was lower than the EU average [11% in Greece vs. 14% in all EU countries, according to the School Population Survey on Substance Use and Other Addictive Behaviors.
Sexual abuse: According to a survey, 65% of women in Greece state that they have been a victim of sexual harassment or abuse, with workplaces and street incidents being the most common places where attacks are experienced.
In 2021, the Greek ##MeToo movement made its appearance in Greece, revealing numerous incidents of gender-based sexual violence. These revelations started with public figures showing how it can happen to every girl and every woman, thus encouraging others to speak up. In Greece like internationally, through this move, the need arose noticeably for both society and the state to reflect even more seriously on the phenomenon of sexual violence and to increase their mobilization for its combat.
Obesity: Around one out of six adults (16 %) was obese in Greece in 2019—a percentage higher than the one in Italy (11 %) or France (14 %), but similar to the percentage in other Mediterranean countries such as Cyprus (15 %), Spain (15 %) and Portugal (17 %) and equal to the EU average. In contrast, more than one out of five 15-year-olds was overweight or obese in Greece in 2018, which is higher than in most other EU countries and has significantly increased compared to the period 2001-2002. Boys are more likely to be overweight or obese compared to girls.
In Greece, like in other countries, poor nutrition is the main factor of being overweight or obese. About half of the adults reported eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis in 2019, a percentage that is relatively lower than in many other EU countries. In addition, less than one out of three 15-year-olds reported eating vegetables on a daily basis and only about one out of four 15-year-olds reported eating fruit on a daily basis in 2018. Low physical activity also contributes to obesity. While two-thirds of adults reported doing at least some moderate physical activity every week in 2014, only one out of eight 15-year-olds reported doing moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis in 2018.
The main concepts used regarding the issue of Health and Well-being come from the definitions of the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as from the Greek legislation.
Health: is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Mental health: defined as a state of well-being in which each person realizes his own potential, can cope with the ordinary stress of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to his community.
Disease prevention: Disease prevention covers not only measures aimed at preventing the occurrence of diseases, such as mitigating risk factors, but also measures to halt the progression of a disease and reduce its effects once it occurs.
Public Health: Public health is the science and art of promoting and improving health, preventing disease, and prolonging life through organized efforts of government action.
Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional and mental well-being related to sexuality, not simply the absence of disease, dysfunction or disability.
Sexual rights: The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitute sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people's rights to fulfill and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due respect for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination.
Reproductive health: is a state of complete physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in all matters related to the reproductive system, its functions and related not merely to the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.