Greeks acquire Western lifestyle

Depression is a worldwide disorder, says Professor Costas Stephanis, though it may vary widely in frequency, spread, and the form it takes. In this respect, Greece does not differ significantly from Western Europe or the United States. What is new, Stephanis says, is the co-existence of anxiety and depression in the same person. «And we don’t mean by that anxiety as a symptom of depression, but (…) an obsessive-compulsive disorder which may exist in conjunction with depression and schizophrenia.» But the clinical picture has not altered much, he said. «Previously in this country, depressives manifested somatic disorders, and fewer distur- bances in thinking and attitudes.» This psychosomatic form of depression is in decline, as the way of life becomes more like that of Western countries. «We manifest depression through (…) guilt feelings. By contrast, in Islamic and Arab countries, guilt is not much of a factor.» This was possibly the explanation for the low suicide rate among the depressed population in those countries, he added. But women everywhere are more prone to depression than men, and also account for most suicide attempts. Men, however, are more likely to succeed in killing themselves. Eighty-five percent of all suicides were due to depression or schizophrenia (there are two suicides in the world every minute). Consequences In many countries, the incidence of depressive emotional reactions has shown an increase. «Some claim that this increase is in the region of 10 percent every decade,» said Professor Stephanis. «I’m not sure if that’s the case. But according to studies in the USA, Greece and by WHO, one in five people suffers from a period of depression in their life. «Depression is the major factor responsible for absences from school and work and fall in productivity between the ages of 15 and 45. It leads to alcohol abuse and dependence. «It is mistakenly linked to weakness of character, laziness and complaining, and this makes people avoid seeking medical help and give up.» As a result, obligations are not met, which affects both the family and the broader social environment. «Since genetic makeup has not changed, other factors, to do with way of life, are contributing to the rise in incidences of depression. At the same time, there is a connection with diseases such as Parkinson’s. «Almost half of all Parkinson’s sufferers have severe depression.» A key listening post for former colonial power Britain, Cyprus has two military bases facing the Middle East and Africa.