On the 12th of May, 1860 the New York Times published an article where the phrase "Sick man of Europe" appeared for the first time. The source of the original idiom is hard to determine: Nicolas I of Russia called Turkey "a sick man - a very sick man" in his speech during the Crimean War, as quoted by John Russel. Anyway, the New York Times the full phrase which later became a cliche to describe a European country having a distress in economy.

More Info: en.wikipedia.org