Background: Economic crises may have a significant impact on public health. The objective of this study was to assess trends in health-related behaviours and cardiovascular risk factors within Greece before, at the beginning and during the current financial crisis by comparing data from three waves of the Greek cross-sectional household 'Hellas Health' surveys.
Methods: Data from three waves were analysed. The first wave was conducted in 2006 (n = 1005), the second in 2008 (n = 1490) and the third in 2011 (n = 1008). Samples were representative of the Greek adult population in terms of age and residency. Smoking status, height, weight and fruit and vegetable consumption were self-reported. Physical activity levels were assessed with the International Physical Activity Questionnaire.
Results: The prevalence of smoking in Greece decreased from 42.6 to 38.1% during the crisis period 2008-11 (P = 0.026), but not during 2006-8. The prevalence of high levels of physical activity increased among Greek adults (from 21.9 to 31.7%, P < 0.001) in all socio-economic and demographic groups, with the exception of the highest socio-economic status (SES) group. On the contrary, the consumption of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day significantly decreased during the crisis among those of lower SES (from 9.0 to 4.1%, P = 0.006). Prevalence of obesity did not show significant trends.
Conclusions: During the economic crisis, fruit and vegetable consumption alarmingly decreased, especially among those of lower SES, whereas trends in smoking prevalence and physical activity levels seem favourable. These results indicate that the economic crisis may unequally impact cardiovascular risk factors among different socio-economic groups.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.