Heart disease needing hospital treatment increased during the Greek financial crisis.
More young people were treated for heart attacks in Greek hospital emergency departments during the financial crisis and the problem was particularly acute among women.
Research showing the link between the two was presented at this year’s Heart Failure Congress – the main annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology’s Heart Failure Association.
The researchers chose 2008 as the start of the crisis because gross national product dropped dramatically that year and unemployment rose.
They compared heart disease before the crisis and after and found that the number of hospital admissions rose more than 10pc.
While admissions for those under the age of 45 increased for both sexes, there were more women than men.
“During the financial crisis, women’s natural protection against heart disease may have been cancelled because of stress, which is an important factor in the development of heart attacks,” Dr Dimitra Papadimitriou told the meeting.
“This could explain the greater number of admissions for heart attacks in women when the crisis occurred.”
Dr Alexious Samentzas, who led the reseach, said: “It is likely that Greek people have become more stressed during the crisis as they have lost their jobs or had their salary decreased.
“The lack of money and decrease in quality of life may have led to happiness, self-esteem and satisfaction being replaced with distress, disappointment and anger.
“These negative emotions may have increased stress levels further and contributed to the rise in AF (atrial fibrillation -abnormal heart rhythm)”.
She continued: “Our results highlight the importance of cardiovascular prevention during times of social distress. “People with a lower quality of life due to the financial crisis tend to follow an unhealthy diet, have sedentary lifestyles and start or continue smoking as an escape from their problems.”
Dr Samentzas concluded: “The upsurge in heart attacks and AF during the crisis are a wake-up call for doctors and health systems to advise patients how to live healthily and reduce their cardiovascular risk.”