Six things we learned from the new Swiss Health Survey

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Six things we learned from the new Swiss Health Survey
The vast majority of Swiss people say their health is "good" or "very good". Photo: Depositphotos"

Switzerland’s Federal Statistics Office on Tuesday released the latest edition of its wide-ranging health survey. Over 20,000 people aged 15 and over were asked about their health for the 2017 questionnaire. Here are some of the key findings.


Smoking rates are still high (but falling among young people)

A relatively high 27 percent Swiss people aged over 15 were smokers in 2017 (31 percent of men and 23 percent of women). This is down from 33 percent in 1997 but the same rate as in 2007.

That Swiss figures compares to 15.1 percent of UK adults aged 18 and over, according to the UK Office for National Statistics and to 15.5 percent in the US as reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On the positive front, the number of young people aged 15 to 24 smoking dropped from 44 percent in 1997 to 23 percent in 2017. There are also far fewer heavy smokers (20 cigarettes or more a day) across all age groups. In 1992, 47 percent of smokers were in this group. Last year, the figure was 32 percent.

The number of overweight people has stabilized

More than half of all Swiss men aged 35 or over were either overweight (a BMI of 25 to 29) or obese (a BMI of over 30 or more) in 2017. In fact, across all age groups, men were far more likely to be overweight (39 percent against 23 percent) and marginally more likely to be obese (12 percent against 10 percent for women).

The number of overweight people rose 30 percent in 1997 to 42 percent in 2012 but has now stabilized. In addition, Swiss people still have one of the lowest levels of overweight in the developed world, according to the OECD. However, the OECD also said in a report last year that this was forecast to rise in future.

Young people are reporting more mental health problems

The vast majority of male and female survey respondents said they had mostly felt “happy” or “calm and relaxed” over the four weeks previous to taking part in the 2017 survey.

However, the survey also found 18 percent of people suffered from mental health problems in 2017 – for five percent of people these problems were severe and for 13 percent they were moderate. While the overall rate had not changed on a decade earlier, the number of young people aged 15 to 24 reporting mental health problems had increased from 14 to 18 percent.

Swiss people consider themselves healthy

A very high 85 percent of Swiss people who took part in the 2017 health survey described their health as “good” or “very good” and just four percent said it was “bad or very bad”.

Positive perceptions of health were higher among people with post-compulsory education: 91 percent versus 66 percent for people with lower education levels.

At the same time, around one third of people said they had an ongoing health problem with 29 percent of women and 15 percent of men saying they were suffering from serious physical discomfort. Back pain and general weakness were the most common complaints.

Switzerland is an active nation

The survey demonstrates what anecdotal evidence would suggest. The Swiss like to move. Three out of four Swiss people got enough physical exercise (150 minutes of moderately intense activity and 75 minutes of intense physical activity) in 2017, against 60 percent in 2002. At the same time, just 8 percent of survey respondents said they did less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, therefore qualifying as inactive.

Six percent of Swiss people don't eat meat

Just over two thirds (68 percent) of Swiss people say they are careful about what they eat but just 21 percent ate the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetable at least five days a week in 2017. Meanwhile, 46 percent of men and 25 percent of women did not follow medical advice to limit meat consumption to four times a week.

However, the number of people eating meat daily fell from 20 percent in 1992 to 10 percent last year. Six percent of people said they didn’t eat any meat at all.

Read also: Ticino to consider ban on smoking on café terraces


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