Health Care in Greek Culture

Categories: CultureGreekHealth

It is important for health care providers to consider cultural beliefs, values, and behaviors while interacting with patients so that relationships can be built upon trust and respect. Understanding and respecting culturally diverse beliefs will help to provide competent care for clients and practitioners of all cultures and in all settings. The Greek culture is very unique and is well known for its naturalistic approach to health care. Hippocrates, also known as the “Father of Medicine”, based his philosophy on the concept of a “healthy mind in a healthy body”.

The concept formed the basis that he used in his approach to health promotion, trauma interventions, and mental care with art therapy interventions (Kleisiaris, Sfakianaki, & Papathanasiou, 2014).

Family in the Greek culture is extremely important and are well known for their close-knit families. Marriage is important in society and helps blend immediate and extended families together. While the men are more in the public eye of prestige, it is the women that play the more important role in keeping an organized home to keep their standing among the community.

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Communication is common among generations of adults and children to offer financial, emotional, and physical support for the family unit. Businesses are often kept in the families and great respect is given to the elders (Advameg, 2018).

Greece has a National Health Services system that provides services at clinics and hospitals. It also provides for insurance programs, but a struggling economy has led to a shortage in resources to meet the health needs of locals and refugees in the country (Kotsiou, Kotsios, Srivastava, Kotsios, Gourgoulianis, & Exadaktylos, 2018).

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Healthcare beliefs are founded on the main concepts of Hippocrates that evolved around a balance four main elements which include: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. These are founded upon the belief that the earth has four main elements, and Hippocrates believed that the human body was no different. These concepts are consistent with conventional concepts of Western medicine and utilize standard protocols and guidelines for diagnosis, management and prevention of disease (Kleisiaris et al, 2014).

As in ancient Greece, there is a stigma attached to mental illness. It was once thought to be punishment for sins that the person had done. There are mental facilities that treat mental illness, but unfortunately due to economic crisis, there are numerous individuals who are unable to receive psychiatric treatment (Kotsiou et al, 2018). Death and illness are feared and is equivalent to pain and suffering. Most families avoid discussion of death to keep evil from entering the home. They often open windows to wash of the evil with fresh air. Grieving women also wear black for a full year after a death.

It is important to establish a relationship with the client by developing a mutual trust and respect for each other’s cultural differences. Communicating with patients on a level they can understand and using effective body language can be useful in establishing trust (Allinson & Chaar, 2016). Greek families depend heavily on each other for decision making, so they need to be included in decision making concerning a family member’s health care. The majority of the population in Greece are a part of the Greek Orthodox religion. They believe in the power of faith and prayer to heal an individual physically and psychologically. Monks and laypersons also use prayer ropes. In Greek culture, there are no dietary restriction or restrictions on surgical care except abortion, which is seen as a harsh sin. Modesty is not an issue but healthcare providers should dress appropriately when dealing with patients of any culture. Treatment provided by health care workers along with verbal and nonverbal interactions, should be done with respect regardless of culture or religious beliefs.

In Greek culture, the daily tasks that individuals participate in are very important. Men spend most of the day at their place of work. Some specific work tasks that men are responsible for include farming or working in a factory. Women are generally the homemakers and take care of housework and cooking meals for the family. Since these traits are normal for families in this culture, they are viewed as important and are taken very seriously (Advameg, 2018). Along with the occupational tasks of the individuals in this culture, the environment in which they take place can severely influence the way they perform their daily tasks. For example, weather and climate at any specific time of year can influence when and how effective their job performance is in the agricultural business. The social context in this culture would influence how each member of the family portrays themselves. Each family has a certain image to uphold and straying from that image could result in social isolation from surrounding families and neighbors. Since the Greeks are very involved in religious practices, they are highly influenced by their spiritual environment. Their beliefs enable them to live a lifestyle that is pure and justified.

The Greek cultures view on healthcare is closely related to those that we, as Occupational Therapy Practitioners, are taught throughout our education. Natural therapy is one of the many factors that will allow an individual from this culture to receive high quality therapy in a culturally sensitive way. However, there are still Greek families that believe that their health is related to the food that they consume and the way they live their lives. This could also be an aspect that Occupational Therapy Practitioners could educate the client on health foods options and exercises that would be appropriate for them. In Greek customs, it is a sign of respect and trust that whenever someone enters their place of business that the guest is offered a beverage (Advameg, 2018). So, while in therapy, it would be appropriate to ask if they would like a beverage, which would allow your cultural respect to shine through.

Since Greek healthcare was founded upon modern medicine concepts, the way that healthcare professionals interact with their patients are quite similar. Recovery and prevention of disease and illness is important in our practice as well as in Greek views. Occupational Therapy practitioners are living proof of the concepts that were founded by Hippocrates in ancient Greece. Both treatment and intervention of various diseases or illnesses allow us to follow all of his principles by viewing patients in a holistic aspect and understanding that the body is a machine and reinforces the concept of having a “Healthy mind in a healthy body” (Kleisiaris et al, 2014). This also plays a role when considering the mind, body, and soul in treatment. The Occupational Therapists role in treatment for those involved in the Greek culture simply is no different than the normal everyday traditions of healthcare practice, thus making intervention and treatment in our profession much more valid and effective.


  • Advameg (2018). World Culture Encyclopedia: Greece. Retrieved from:
  • Allinson, M., & Chaar, B. (2016). How to build and maintain trust with patients. The Pharmaceutical Journal, 297. Retrieved from:
  • Kleisiaris, C. F., Sfakianakis, C., & Papathanasiou, I. V. (2014). Health care practices in ancient Greece: The hippocratic ideal. Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, 7, 1-5.
  • Kotsiou, O., Kotsios, P., Srivastava, D., Kotsios, V., Gourgoulianis, K., & Exadaktylos, A. (2018). Impact of the refugee crisis on the Greek healthcare system: A Long Road to Ithaca. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15, 1790.
Updated: Sep 09, 2021
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Health Care in Greek Culture. (2021, Sep 09). Retrieved from

Health Care in Greek Culture essay
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