MAPS: Which canton is Switzerland’s fattest?

Swiss food can be hard to resist. So where do the biggest - literally - victims of cheese, wine and chocolate live?

MAPS: Which canton is Switzerland's fattest?
It's called style, you have it or you don't. Photo: John MACDOUGALL / 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.

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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What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Switzerland’s basic health insurance is among the most expensive in the world, but there are certain services it doesn’t pay for. Here are some of the benefits the scheme won’t cover in full.

What isn't covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian —  is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap, but it is quite comprehensive and includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

It also covers accidents for those who do not have accident insurance through their workplace.

Basically, whatever the doctor orders is covered by KVG / LaMal, at least partially.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

However, there are some treatments the basic insurance won’t pay for.

Experimental treatments

Any experimental treatments or drugs — that is, those not approved by the Swissmedic regulatory agency or the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will not be covered.

This exclusion is not specifically Swiss; insurance schemes is most countries won’t cover unauthorised medical treatment either.

Dental care

In most cases, services such as teeth cleaning, dental fillings, root canals, tooth extractions, and orthodontic braces, are not included under basic insurance.

The only exceptions, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), are dental interventions “necessitated by a serious disorder of the masticatory system, or if such treatment is required to support and ensure the success of medical treatment for a severe general disorder (e.g. leukaemia, heart-valve replacement)”.

Most dental treatments are not covered. Photo by Pixabay

Eyeglasses and contact lenses

Compulsory health insurance will contribute up to 180 francs per year towards glasses and contact lenses prescribed by an ophthalmologist for children up to the age of 18.

No such benefit exist for adults. However, “in the case of serious visual impairment or certain illnesses (e.g. disease-related refraction abnormalities, postoperative alterations or corneal disease), compulsory health insurance will, regardless of age, make higher contributions towards medically prescribed spectacle and contact lenses”, FOPH says.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?


Emergency vehicles that transport you to a hospital can be quite expensive — depending on the canton, the costs can range from 900 to 2,000 francs per trip. 

Basic health insurance will contribute a certain amount  to the cost of emergency transportation, but only if it is a medical necessity — a serious accident, an illness, or a life-threatening situation. But if the patient could have travelled by private car or public transport, basic health insurance policies will pay nothing.

Insurance will cover some of the cost of ambulance transport only in emergency. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Private hospital room

While the cost of your hospitalisation will be fully covered, the basic insurance does not pay for a private room.

You will be accommodated in a room with other patients.

Depending on a medical facility — whether it’s a small hospital or a large, university medical centre, you could end up with just one other person or possibly four or five, the latter being common in teaching hospitals.

If you insist on a private accommodation, you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?


Immunisations outlined by FOPH  will be paid for by insurance, as will the Covid vaccine.

Not covered, however, are travel-related vaccinations or preventive measures, such as against yellow fever or malaria.

Treatment abroad

Outside Switzerland, only emergency care is covered  — double the amount that the same treatment would cost in Switzerland.

Usually, basic health insurance will not cover transportation costs back to Switzerland, except in case of emergency, when it will cover 50 percent of the total cost of transportation to the nearest hospital abroad — but no more than 500 francs per year. 

If you only have a basic insurance policy and travel abroad often, especially to the United States, you should take out a travel insurance that will cover you for illness and accidents in foreign countries above and beyond what your Swiss carrier will pay.

And if you want to upgrade your treatment options, consider taking out a supplemental insurance or, if you can afford it, private one.

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

You can find out more about what KVG / LaMal will and will not cover here.