Greeks ‘unhealthy but happy’

Greeks hold one of the worst records in the European Union for smoking and child obesity but they are also among the most optimistic citizens in the region, according to a joint report by the European Commission and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report, whose findings were made public in Brussels yesterday, showed that four in 10 people in Greece (39.2 percent) aged over 15 smoke every day. Greeks have the highest rate for smoking in the 27-member EU, followed by the Bulgarians with 29.1 percent smoking daily and the Irish with 29 percent, just over the EU average of 24.2 percent. The findings came just two weeks after the Greek government heralded the launch of a campaign to discourage children from picking up the habit of smoking by informing them early on about the associated risks. Health Ministry figures show that some 50,000 young Greeks join the ranks of the country’s smokers each year. Another health risk faced by Greek children, according to the joint report by the EC and OECD, is obesity. Greece has the worst record in the EU for child obesity after Malta, the report showed. A total of 18.9 percent of Greek children aged between 11 and 15 are obese, significantly above the EU average of 13.3 percent but also much lower than the Maltese with 29.5 percent. However, despite these unhealthy habits, Greeks appear to be among the least depressed citizens in the bloc. The most recent figures available, for 2008, show Greece to have the lowest rate of suicide, with 2.8 suicides per 100,000 residents recorded in that year, compared to an EU average of 12 suicides per 100,00 residents. In Cyprus, the rate in 2008 was 4.3 suicides per 100,000 residents and in Italy 5.2 suicides per 100,000. The highest rates were recorded in Lithuania with 30.7 suicides per 100,000 residents and Hungary with 21.5 suicides per 100,000.

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