Background: Nearly all European countries have been affected by the economic crisis that began in 2007, but the consequences have been among the worst in Spain. We investigated the associations of the recession on the frequency of mood, anxiety, somatoform, alcohol-related and eating disorders among those visiting Spanish primary care settings. Methods: Primary care physicians selected randomized samples of patients attending primary care centres representing Spain's consulting populations. A total of 7940 patients in 2006-07 and 5876 in 2010-11 were administered the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) instrument to diagnose mental disorders. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to quantify overall changes in the frequency of mental disorders, adjusting for potential socio-demographic differences in consulting populations unrelated to economic factors. Results: Compared with the pre-crisis period of 2006, the 2010 survey revealed substantial and significant increases in the proportion of patients with mood (19.4% in major depression), anxiety (8.4% in generalized anxiety disorder), somatoform (7.3%) and alcohol-related disorders (4.6% in alcohol dependence), all significant at P < 0.001, but not in eating disorders (0.15%, P = 0.172). Independent of observed risks of unemployment [odds ratio (OR) = 1.72, P < 0.001], we observed a significantly elevated risk of major depression associated with mortgage repayment difficulties (OR = 2.12, P < 0.001) and evictions (OR = 2.95, P < 0.001). About one-third of the overall risk in the consulting population's attendance with mental health disorders could be attributed to the combined risks of household unemployment and mortgage payment difficulties. Conclusion: Recession has significantly increased the frequency of mental health disorders and alcohol abuse among primary care attendees in Spain, particularly among families experiencing unemployment and mortgage payment difficulties.
Background: Hearing impairment is a leading cause of disease burden, yet population-based studies that measure hearing impairment are rare. We estimate regional and global hearing impairment prevalence from sparse data and calculate corresponding uncertainty intervals. Methods: We accessed papers from a published literature review and obtained additional detailed data tabulations from investigators. We estimated the prevalence of hearing impairment by region, sex, age and hearing level using a Bayesian hierarchical model, a method that is effective for sparse data. As the primary objective of modelling was to produce regional and global prevalence estimates, including for those regions with scarce to no data, models were evaluated using cross-validation. Results: We used data from 42 studies, carried out between 1973 and 2010 in 29 countries. Hearing impairment was positively related to age, male sex and middle- and low-income regions. We estimated that the global prevalence of hearing impairment (defined as an average hearing level of 35 decibels or more in the better ear) in 2008 was 1.4% (95% uncertainty interval 1.0-2.2%) for children aged 5-14 years, 9.8% (7.7-13.2%) for females > 15 years of age and 12.2% (9.7-16.2%) for males > 15 years of age. The model exhibited good external validity in the cross-validation analysis, with 87% of survey estimates falling within our final model's 95% uncertainty intervals. Conclusion: Our results suggest that the prevalence of child and adult hearing impairment is substantially higher in middle- and low-income countries than in high-income countries, demonstrating the global need for attention to hearing impairment.
Background: Finland has experienced remarkable changes in population levels of coronary heart disease risk factors and mortality over the past decades. The National FINRISK studies have monitored risk factors in major non-communicable diseases from 1972 to 2012. The 40-year changes in those risk factors are presented. Methods: Study population included participants aged 30-59 years in the series on independent random population samples. Data were collected in 5-year intervals in 1972-2012. FINRISK studies so far comprised 53 589 men and women who participated in a health examination, gave a venous blood sample and filled in questionnaires. Serum total cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) were measured using standardized protocol, and smoking status was recorded. Results: Total serum cholesterol decreased remarkably until 2007, but after that has increased. Systolic blood pressure has continued to decline over time since 1972, while decrease in diastolic blood pressure has levelled off during the last 10 years. Smoking prevalence has markedly decreased. BMI has increased in the population, but most significantly in the earlier survey years, not the past 10 years. Conclusions: After three decades of favourable development, the population risk factor levels showed some increase in total cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure. This emphasizes the need for continued efforts towards national disease prevention and health promotion.
Background: The current financial crisis is having a major impact on European economies, especially that of Spain. Past evidence suggests that adverse macro-economic conditions exacerbate mental illness, but evidence from the current crisis is limited. This study analyses the association between the financial crisis and suicide rates in Spain. Methods: An interrupted time-series analysis of national suicides data between 2005 and 2010 was used to establish whether there has been any deviation in the underlying trend in suicide rates associated with the financial crisis. Segmented regression with a seasonally adjusted quasi-Poisson model was used for the analysis. Stratified analyses were performed to establish whether the effect of the crisis on suicides varied by region, sex and age group. Results: The mean monthly suicide rate in Spain during the study period was 0.61 per 100 000 with an underlying trend of a 0.3% decrease per month. We found an 8.0% increase in the suicide rate above this underlying trend since the financial crisis (95% CI: 1.009-1.156; P = 0.03); this was robust to sensitivity analysis. A control analysis showed no change in deaths from accidental falls associated with the crisis. Stratified analyses suggested that the association between the crisis and suicide rates is greatest in the Mediterranean and Northern areas, in males and amongst those of working age. Conclusions: The financial crisis in Spain has been associated with a relative increase in suicides. Males and those of working age may be at particular risk of suicide associated with the crisis and may benefit from targeted interventions.
Background: International comparisons of social inequalities in alcohol use have not been extensively investigated. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of country-level characteristics and individual socio-economic status (SES) on individual alcohol consumption in 33 countries. Methods: Data on 101 525 men and women collected by cross-sectional surveys in 33 countries of the GENACIS study were used. Individual SES was measured by highest attained educational level. Alcohol use measures included drinking status and monthly risky single occasion drinking (RSOD). The relationship between individuals' education and drinking indicators was examined by meta-analysis. In a second step the individual level data and country data were combined and tested in multilevel models. As country level indicators we used the Purchasing Power Parity of the gross national income, the Gini coefficient and the Gender Gap Index. Results: For both genders and all countries higher individual SES was positively associated with drinking status. Also higher country level SES was associated with higher proportions of drinkers. Lower SES was associated with RSOD among men. Women of higher SES in low income countries were more often RSO drinkers than women of lower SES. The opposite was true in higher income countries. Conclusion: For the most part, findings regarding SES and drinking in higher income countries were as expected. However, women of higher SES in low and middle income countries appear at higher risk of engaging in RSOD. This finding should be kept in mind when developing new policy and prevention initiatives.
Background: Sufficient levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) give substantial health benefits to adolescents. This article examines trends in physical activity (PA) from 2002 to 2010 across 32 countries from Europe and North America. Methods: Representative samples included 479 674 pupils (49% boys) aged 11 years (n = 156 383), 13 years (n = 163 729) and 15 years (n = 159 562). The trends in meeting the recommendations for PA (at least 60 min daily) were evaluated using logistic regression. Results: There was a slight overall increase between 2002 and 2010 (17.0% and 18.6%, respectively). MVPA increased significantly (P <= 0.05) among boys in 16 countries. Conversely, nine countries showed a significant decrease. Among girls, 10 countries showed a significant increase (P <= 0.05). Eight countries showed a significant decrease. For all countries combined, girls were slightly less likely to show an increase in PA over time. Conclusions: The majority of adolescents do not meet current recommendations of PA. Further investment at national and international levels is therefore necessary to increase PA participation among children and adolescents and reduce the future health burden associated with inactivity.
Background: This study examined trends in adolescent weekly alcohol use between 2002 and 2010 in 28 European and North American countries. Methods: Analyses were based on data from 11-, 13- and 15-year-old adolescents who participated in the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Results: Weekly alcohol use declined in 20 of 28 countries and in all geographic regions, from 12.1 to 6.1% in Anglo-Saxon countries, 11.4 to 7.8% in Western Europe, 9.3 to 4.1% in Northern Europe and 16.3 to 9.9% in Southern Europe. Even in Eastern Europe, where a stable trend was observed between 2002 and 2006, weekly alcohol use declined between 2006 and 2010 from 12.3 to 10.1%. The decline was evident in all gender and age subgroups. Conclusions: These consistent trends may be attributable to increased awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol for adolescent development and the implementation of associated prevention efforts, or changes in social norms and conditions. Although the declining trend was remarkably similar across countries, prevalence rates still differed considerably across countries.
We analyse how mental health and socioeconomic inequalities in the Spanish population aged 16-64 years have changed between 2006-2007 and 2011-2012. We observed an increase in the prevalence of poor mental health among men (prevalence ratio = 1.15, 95% CI 1.04-1.26], especially among those aged 35-54 years, those with primary and secondary education, those from semi-qualified social classes and among breadwinners. None of these associations remained after adjusting for working status. The relative index of inequality by social class increased for men from 1.02 to 1.08 (P = 0.001). We observed a slight decrease in the prevalence of poor mental health among women (prevalence ratio = 0.92, 95% CI 0.87-0.98), without any significant change in health inequality.
Background: Financial crisis and worsened socio-economic conditions are associated with greater morbidity, less utilization of health services and deteriorated population's health status. The aim of the present study was to investigate the determinants of self-rated health in Greece. Methods: Two national cross-sectional surveys conducted in 2006 and 2011 were combined, and their data were pooled giving information for 10 572 individuals. The sample in both studies was random and stratified by gender, age, degree of urbanization and geographic region. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the impact of several factors on self-rated health. Results: Poor self-rated health was most common in older people, unemployed, pensioners, housewives and those suffering from chronic disease. Men, individuals with higher education and those with higher income have higher probability to report better self-rated health. Furthermore, the probability of reporting poor self-rated health is higher at times of economic crisis. Conclusion: Our findings confirm the association of self-rated health with economic crisis and certain demographic and socio-economic factors. Given that the economic recession in Greece deepens, immediate and effective actions targeting health inequalities and improvements in health status are deemed necessary.
Background: We examine gender differences in health at ages 50 years and older in 11 European countries, England and the USA. Methods: We use the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement (SHARE) for 11 Continental European countries; the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) for the USA to examine gender differences in health behaviours, functioning problems, disability, disease prevalence and self-rated health. Results: Women in all countries are more likely than men to have disabling, non-lethal conditions including functioning problems [odds ratio (OR) indicating the effect of female is 1.57-2.43], IADL difficulties (OR 1.45-2.94), arthritis (OR 1.46-2.90) and depressive symptoms (OR 1.45-3.35). On the other hand, self-reported heart disease is more common among men (OR indicating effect of female ranges from 0.43 to 0.86). These differences are not eliminated by controlling for smoking behaviour and weight. Self-reported hypertension (OR 0.72-1.53) is generally more common among women; stroke and diabetes do not show consistent sex differences. While subjective assessment of health is poorer among women, this is not true when indicators of functioning, disability and diseases are controlled. Conclusion: There is remarkable consistency in direction of gender differences in health across these 13 countries. The size of the differences is affected in many cases by the similarity in behaviours of men and women.
Background: Evidence of inequalities in obesity and overweight is available mostly from national studies. This article provides a broad international comparison of inequalities by education level and socio-economic status, in men and women and over time. Methods: Data from national health surveys of 11 OECD countries were used. The size of inequalities was assessed on the basis of absolute and relative inequality indexes. A regression-analysis approach was used to assess differences between social groups in trends over time. Results: Of the countries examined, USA and England had the highest rates of obesity and overweight. Large social inequalities were consistently detected in all countries, especially in women. Absolute inequalities were largest in Hungary and Spain with a difference of 11.6 and 10% in obesity rates in men, and 18.3 and 18.9% in women, respectively, across the education spectrum. Relative inequalities were largest in France and Sweden with poorly educated men 3.2 and 2.8 times as likely to be obese as men with the highest education (18 and 17 times for women in Spain and Korea, respectively). Pro-poor inequalities in overweight were observed for men in USA, Canada, Korea, Hungary, Australia and England. Inequalities remained virtually stable during the last 15 years, with only small variations in England, Korea, Italy and France. Conclusion: Large and persistent social inequalities in obesity and overweight by education level and socio-economic status exist in OECD countries. These are consistently larger in women than in men.
Background: Avoidable hospitalization (AH) has been widely studied as a possible measure of the performance of primary health care (PHC). However, studies examining the relationship between the efficiency and quality of PHC and AH have found mixed results. Our study aims at highlighting those factors related to the relationship between AH and accessibility to PHC in different countries. Methods: We conducted a systematic search for peer-reviewed studies published between 1990 and October 2010 in English, German, French, Italian or Spanish and indexed primary electronic databases. Results: The final analysis was conducted on the basis of 51 papers. Of them, 72.5% revealed a significant inverse association between the indicator of PHC accessibility and rates of AH. Indicators of PHC calculated at individual level are more likely to reveal contradictory aspects of the relationship between rates of AH and indicators of quality and PHC accessibility. Conclusions: Most studies confirmed the expected relationship between indicators of PHC accessibility and hospitalization for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSCs), showing lower hospitalization rates for ACSC in areas with greater access to PHC. The findings support the use of ACSC hospitalization as an indicator of primary care quality, with the precaution of applying appropriate adjustment factors.
Background: Active transport policies are being developed across Europe designed to have health and environmental benefits. There is little evidence of impact on physical activity of active transport strategies which modify the built environment. Cycling represents one virtually carbon-neutral form of transport that can help to address declining levels of exercise. Methods: A systematic literature review of experimental or observational studies that objectively evaluated the effect of the built environment on cycling. Results: A total of 21 studies met the inclusion criteria, all of which were observational studies. Eleven studies identified objectively measured environmental factors with a significant positive association with cycling. The environmental factors identified as being positively associated with cycling included presence of dedicated cycle routes or paths, separation of cycling from other traffic, high population density, short trip distance, proximity of a cycle path or green space and for children projects promoting 'safe routes to school'. Negative environmental factors were perceived and objective traffic danger, long trip distance, steep inclines and distance from cycle paths. Of the seven studies which focused primarily on the impact of cycle routes, four demonstrated a statistically significant positive association. Conclusion: Although the study identified environmental factors with positive and negative associations with cycling behaviour, many other types of environmental policies and interventions have yet to be rigorously evaluated. Policies promoting cycle lane construction appear promising but the socio-demographic distribution of their effects on physical activity is unclear. The wider impact of active transport policies on health and inequalities across Europe must be explored.
Background: In the European Union (EU) and neighbouring countries, HIV/AIDS, of all infectious diseases, has one of the highest morbidity and mortality rates. An estimated 30% of people living with HIV are unaware of their infection, and may therefore not benefit from timely treatment or may transmit HIV to others, unknowingly. Evidence shows that opportunities are being missed to diagnose HIV infections in EU Member States, particularly in regular health care settings. There is a need to better understand the barriers to HIV testing and counselling with the aim to contribute to the decrease of the number of undiagnosed people. Methods: A systematic review of literature on HIV testing barriers in Europe was conducted, applying a free text strategy with a set of search terms. Results: A total of 24 studies published in international peer-reviewed journals and meeting the review's eligibility criteria were identified. Fourteen studies report on barriers at the level of the patient; six on barriers at health care provider level and seven on institutional barriers referring to the policy level. The barriers described are centralized around low-risk perception; fear and worries; accessibility of health services, reluctance to address HIV and to offer the test; and scarcity of financial and well trained human resources. Conclusions: Some barriers to HIV testing and counselling have been illustrated in the literature. Nevertheless, there is lack of structured information on barriers considering (i) legal, administrative and financial factors, (ii) attitudes and practices of health care providers and (iii) perception of patients. Such data is critical to improve effectiveness of HIV testing and counselling.
Background: Primary care is in short supply in many countries. Task shifting from physicians to nurses is one strategy to improve access, but international research is scarce. We analysed the extent of task shifting in primary care and policy reforms in 39 countries. Methods: Cross-country comparative research, based on an international expert survey, plus literature scoping review. A total of 93 country experts participated, covering Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (response rate: 85.3%). Experts were selected according to pre-defined criteria. Survey responses were triangulated with the literature and analysed using policy, thematic and descriptive methods to assess developments in country-specific contexts. Results: Task shifting, where nurses take up advanced roles from physicians, was implemented in two-thirds of countries (N = 27, 69%), yet its extent varied. Three clusters emerged: 11 countries with extensive (Australia, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA), 16 countries with limited and 12 countries with no task shifting. The high number of policy, regulatory and educational reforms, such as on nurse prescribing, demonstrate an evolving trend internationally toward expanding nurses' scope-of-practice in primary care. Conclusions: Many countries have implemented task-shifting reforms to maximise workforce capacity. Reforms have focused on removing regulatory and to a lower extent, financial barriers, yet were often lengthy and controversial. Countries early on in the process are primarily reforming their education. From an international and particularly European Union perspective, developing standardised definitions, minimum educational and practice requirements would facilitate recognition procedures in increasingly connected labour markets.
Background: Social norms around what is culturally accepted in terms of alcohol consumption and drunken comportment appear important regarding the acceptance of alcohol-related adverse consequences; however, investigations often neglect to consider differences in terms of attribution. This study aims at assessing cross-cultural differences in the reporting of alcohol-related adverse consequences. It also considers differences across consequences that might explain which type of consequences (mainly acute or mainly chronic) are most affected by an attribution process. Methods: Conditional regression models were estimated based on data from eight European countries participating in the Gender, Alcohol and Culture-An International Study (GENACIS) project. Cases were matched to controls based on usual drinking patterns in order to control for average volume of alcohol and frequency of 'risky single occasion drinking' (RSOD). Results: Differences among the patterns of associations between countries and consequences were evident. The distinction between Nordic and other European countries was persistent. A higher variability of associations was observed for some consequences, namely the mainly acute instances. Finally, the Isle of Man and Switzerland showed specific trends with associations across consequences. Conclusion: Reporting of alcohol-related adverse consequences seemed strongly affected by cultural norms. The latter may be exemplified by viewing drinking as 'time-out' behaviour. Respondents in countries with a stereotypical history of being 'dry' or with a stereotyped 'binge' drinking culture were more likely to attribute consequences to their alcohol consumption than people in 'wet' countries. This was particularly true for consequences that related to episodic 'time-out' heavy drinking.
Background: Bullying among children and adolescents is a public health concern; victimization is associated with psychological and physical health problems. The purpose of this study is to examine temporal trends in bullying victimization among school-aged children in Europe and North America. Methods: Data were obtained from cross-sectional self-report surveys collected as part of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study from nationally representative samples of 11-, 13- and 15-year-olds, from 33 countries and regions which participated in the 2001-02, 2005-06 and 2009-10 surveys. Responses from 581 838 children were included in the analyses. Binary logistic regression was used for the data analyses. Results: The binary logistic regression models showed significant decreasing trends in occasional and chronic victimization between 2001-02 and 2009-10 across both genders in a third of participating countries. One country reported significant increasing trends for both occasional and chronic victimization. Gender differences in trends were evident across many countries. Conclusion: Overall, while still common in many countries, bullying victimization is decreasing. The differences between countries highlight the need to further investigate measures undertaken in countries demonstrating a downward trend.
Background: There is need for an updated systematic review of associations between occupational exposures and ischaemic heart disease (IHD), using the GRADE system. Methods: Inclusion criteria: (i) publication in English in peer-reviewed journal between 1985 and 2014, (ii) quantified relationship between occupational exposure (psychosocial, organizational, physical and other ergonomic job factors) and IHD outcome, (iii) cohort studies with at least 1000 participants or comparable case-control studies with at least 50 + 50 participants, (iv) assessments of exposure and outcome at baseline as well as at follow-up and (v) gender and age analysis. Relevance and quality were assessed using predefined criteria. Level of evidence was then assessed using the GRADE system. Consistency of findings was examined for a number of confounders. Possible publication bias was discussed. Results: Ninety-six articles of high or medium high scientific quality were finally included. There was moderately strong evidence (grade 3 out of 4) for a relationship between job strain and small decision latitude on one hand and IHD incidence on the other hand. Limited evidence (grade 2) was found for iso-strain, pressing work, effort-reward imbalance, low support, lack of justice, lack of skill discretion, insecure employment, night work, long working week and noise in relation to IHD. No difference between men and women with regard to the effect of adverse job conditions on IHD incidence. Conclusions: There is scientific evidence that employees, both men and women, who report specific occupational exposures, such as low decision latitude, job strain or noise, have an increased incidence of IHD.
Background: Health in Greece deteriorated after the recent financial crisis, but whether this decline was caused by the recent financial crisis has not been established. This article uses a quasi-experimental approach to examine the impact of the recent financial crisis on health in Greece. Methods: Data came from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey for the years 2006-09. We applied a difference-in-differences approach that compares health trends before and after the financial crisis in Greece with trends in a control population (Poland) that did not experience a recession and had health trends comparable with Greece before the crisis. We used logistic regression to model the impact of the financial crisis on poor self-rated health, controlling for demographic confounders. Results: Results provide strong evidence of a statistically significant negative effect of the financial crisis on health trends. Relative to the control population, Greece experienced a significantly larger increase in the odds of reporting poor health after the crisis (odds ratio, 1.16; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.29). There was no difference in health trends between Poland and Greece before the financial crisis, supporting a causal interpretation of health declines in Greece as a result of the financial crisis. Conclusion: Results provide evidence that trends in self-rated health in Greece worsened as a result of the recent financial crisis. Findings stress the need for urgent health policy responses to the recent economic collapse in Greece as the full impact of austerity measures unfolds in the coming years.
Background: Chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in Europe. The objective of the Screening for Chlamydia in Europe (SCREen) project was to describe current and planned chlamydia control activities in Europe. Methods: The authors sent a questionnaire asking about different aspects of chlamydia epidemiology and control to public health and clinical experts in each country in 2007. The principles of sexually transmitted infection control were used to develop a typology comprising five categories of chlamydia control activities. Each country was assigned to a category, based on responses to the questionnaire. Results: Experts in 29 of 33 (88%) invited countries responded. Thirteen of 29 countries (45%) had no current chlamydia control activities. Six countries in this group stated that there were plans to introduce chlamydia screening programmes. There were five countries (17%) with case management guidelines only. Three countries (10%) also recommended case finding amongst partners of diagnosed chlamydia cases or people with another sexually transmitted infection. Six countries (21%) further specified groups of asymptomatic people eligible for opportunistic chlamydia testing. Two countries (7%) reported a chlamydia screening programme. There was no consistent association between the per capita gross domestic product of a country and the intensity of chlamydia control activities (P = 0.816). Conclusion: A newly developed classification system allowed the breadth of ongoing national chlamydia control activities to be described and categorized. Chlamydia control strategies should ensure that clinical guidelines to optimize chlamydia diagnosis and case management have been implemented before considering the appropriateness of screening programmes.