Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

The Relationship between Meaning in Life, Emotions and Psychological Illness: The Moderating Role of the Effects of the Economic Crisis

Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

The Relationship between Meaning in Life, Emotions and Psychological Illness: The Moderating Role of the Effects of the Economic Crisis

Article excerpt


The Greek Economic Crisis

Greece represents a social framework where an extreme and rapidly unfolding social and economic crisis takes place, characterized by: high unemployment, major income loss, steep tax increases and a significant reduction in the provision of social, medical and educational services (Potamianos & Gitakos, 2015). Greeks are among the least optimistic European citizens and rank at the lowest levels of well-being among the 27 European countries of the European Union (Eurofound, 2013).

Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union (EUROSTAT, 2015) and according to the latest statistics, unemployment in Greece in the first trimester of 2015 has reached 25.7%, with women's unemployment rate at 29.6% and youth's unemployment rate over 50% (ELSTAT, 2015). The number of people, who live without any income from work, has doubled in Greece (OECD, 2014) and there has been an important increase in psychological illnesses because of the economic crisis (Bouras & Likouras, 2011; Efthimiou, Argalia, Kaskaba, & Makri, 2013; Madianos, Economou, Alexiou, & Stefanis, 2011).

The economic crisis affects the life and self-concept of people, who realize that they have to face and cope with issues, such as: decreased income, unemployment and a decrease in available social, health and educational services, just to name a few (Bouras & Likouras, 2011; Efthimiou et al., 2013). The practical and emotional consequences of the crisis are negatively related to presence of meaning, life satisfaction (Deiktakis, Pezirkianidis, & Stalikas, 2014), psychological resilience and subjective happiness (Manolakou, Pezirkianidis, & Stalikas, 2014) and positively correlated to searching for meaning in life (Deiktakis et al., 2014).

The crisis causes an economic insecurity for both the employed and the unemployed, with a detrimental effect to their self-esteem (Potamianos & Gitakos, 2015). Research has shown that there is a correlation between crisis and a decrease in health and life expectancy, as well as an increase in morbidity and death rate (Malliarou & Sarafis, 2012). High risk groups that are affected the most are: people with a psychological disorder (Polaki, Skapinakis, & Niakas, 2007), the elderly (Fenge et al., 2012), single-parent families, ethnic minorities and immigrants (Wahlbeck & McDaid, 2012).

Research indicates that even employed people are affected by the economic crisis, albeit in different ways. In the context of an economic crisis, the employment conditions deteriorate and are characterized by high levels of insecurity, long working hours, overloaded schedules and increased demands, leading to increased levels of stress, anxiety and burnout (Bouras & Likouras, 2011; Koronaiou, 2010). Moreover, a lot of people in Greece, especially the young ones, work under conditions of black and undeclared employment during the economic crisis. Pezirkianidis and Coccosi (2013) in their study found that young people in Greece, who work illegally, report significantly lower levels of quality of life than those who work legally. Also, testing for gender differences revealed that the percentage of having a part-time or an illegal occupation was higher among young women, 18 to 34 years old, than men of the same age.

Many studies have indicated that economic crisis has a significant impact on mental health. Findings from a Greek sample showed that individuals, who face serious financial difficulties, report higher levels of depression (Madianos et al., 2011), "death wishes", suicidality (Economou et al., 2013; Giotakos, Karabelas, & Kafkas, 2011) and heroin use (Kentikelenis et al., 2011). Women are more likely to manifest depressive (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2001; Sadock & Sadock, 2012), anxiety (Kinrys & Wygant, 2005; Sadock & Sadock, 2012) and stress symptoms than men (APA, 2011, 2012).

Unemployment is reported as the 8th most stressful factor in people's lives (Karaiskou, Malliarou, & Sarafis, 2012). …

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