MAPS: Where do Switzerland’s heaviest drinkers and smokers live?

New figures show which parts of Switzerland indulge and overindulge the most.

MAPS: Where do Switzerland's heaviest drinkers and smokers live?
Swiss football supporters at Euro 2016. Photo: ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP

A new study by the Swiss Health Observatory has shown which parts of Switzerland consume the most illicit substances – from alcohol to cannabis – while also giving a snapshot as to where residents need to tighten their belts. 

While the actual tipple might differ – aperitivo in Ticino, wine in Romandy and beer pretty much everywhere else – the Swiss do love a drink. 

Just over one in ten (10.9 percent) consume alcohol at least once per day in Switzerland – just half of the 20.4 percent who drank daily in 1992. 

While men drink more than women all across the country, the amount consumed per capita varies widely depending on the canton in question. 

The same goes for cannabis. While not legal in Switzerland, it is still widely used. In fact, a poll by the World Health Organisation showed that more teenagers smoked in Switzerland than in any other European country, with 27 percent of 15 year olds having smoked at least once.

READ: Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial 

Ticino is the place to drink

Ticino is home to the heaviest drinkers in Switzerland, with more than 20 percent enjoying a drink daily. Ticino is followed by Jura and Geneva in terms of daily consumption. 

In Obwalden, only five percent of the population drinks daily – the lowest of anywhere in Switzerland. 

Geneva does however boast the most teetotallers, with 21 percent of Geneva not drinking at all. 

Image: Swiss Health Observatory 2020

Foreigners more likely to abstain

The research also showed that foreigners are the least likely to drink alcohol, with almost one in three (28 percent) not drinking at all, compared with 14.9 percent of native-born Swiss. 

The unemployed were also much more likely to drink, with 17.4 percent of those without a job drinking once per day – compared to eight percent of employed persons. 

Appenzeller Ausserrhoder the greenest of them all

The small eastern canton of Appenzeller Ausserrhoder takes the space cake when it comes to cannabis consumption – with 5.6 percent smoking it at least once per month. 

Next is Vaud (5.6 percent), Geneva (5.2), Zurich (5.2) and Neuchatel (5). 

The national average in Switzerland is four percent of the population smoking weed at least once per month. 

Argau consumes the least, with 1.7 percent of residents using marijuana monthly, followed by Obwalden. 

Residents of Ticino clearly prefer alcohol, with only 2.1 percent smoking cannabis on a monthly basis. 

Image: Swiss Health Observatory 2020

Where do the biggest victims of cheese and chocolate live? 

The study also broke down Switzerland’s obesity problem to see which cantons were the chubbiest. 

While the alcohol and cannabis figures showed a wide variation, it was not the case in relation to obesity – with the cantonal averages broadly reflective of the national averages. 

An average of 41.9 percent of adults are overweight in Switzerland – up from 30.4 percent in 1992. Men (51 percent) are significantly more likely to be obese than women (33 percent). 

Aargau is the most obese canton, with 45.8 percent of the population overweight. Jura (45.3) and Thurgau (44.7) follow closely behind. 

Zurich might be the most populous canton, but it’s the lightest – with only 38.6 percent of the population overweight. Obwalden, Vaud, Geneva, Grisons, Uri and Ticino are all below the national average. 

Foreigners tend to be a little heavier than Swiss locals, with 46.7 percent overweight compared to 40.4 of Swiss. 

Image: Swiss Health Observatory

Note: This information was published in June 2020 by the Swiss Health Observatory based on figures collected from 2017. 


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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad