Health attitudes in European countries by MD Thordis Berger
A new European Social Survey (ESS), published in October 2016, compares health attitudes across 21 European countries.
The authors found that promoting healthy lifestyles alone does not seem to be a sufficient strategy for reducing health problems, and should be supported by income redistribution policies and improving physical working conditions.
Depression and Headaches
Among the clearest findings is that, across Europe, women are much more likely than men to report depressive symptoms and severe headaches. In all 21 European countries, women reported more signs of depression than their male compatriots, with some countries showing huge discrepancies. The largest discrepancies are found in Portugal (30.9% of women compared to 15.8% of men); Poland (25.3% compared with 11.3%); Spain (24.7% compared with 12.8%) and Germany (20.2% compared with 9%).
There is a significant gender gap when looking at current smoking rates: the 13 highest rates of smokers are male, with men in Lithuania (48.8%) and Hungary (41.3%) the most likely to smoke.
The report finds that self-reported smoking rates are much lower in northern Europe, the UK and Ireland and considerably higher among men in central and eastern Europe.
In combining male and female smoking rates, Sweden has the least number of smokers, with under 15%. Among current smokers, the percentage smoking more than 20 cigarettes on a typical day is particularly high in Austria, Poland and Israel.
Men are also far more likely to report being overweight than women in all 21 countries across Europe: the highest levels are 67.4% in the Czech Republic, 63.8% in Hungary and 61.2% in Slovenia.
The lowest rates of people who think of themselves as overweight or obese can be found amongst women in Switzerland (29.9%), Denmark and Austria (both 38.9%).
Portugal has been rated last in a list of 21 countries when it comes to physical exercise. Only 13 percent of Portuguese men and just over 11 percent of Portuguese women exercise regularly.
At the opposite end of the scale are Finland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland, whose male and female populations top the exercise charts.
Looking at the quantity of alcohol consumed in all 21 countries, men consume almost twice as many units as women, and weekend day consumption is almost twice weekday consumption. The number of units of alcohol consumed is particularly high in Ireland whilst low rates of frequent alcohol consumption are reported in Israel and central and Eastern Europe (especially amongst women).
The authors conclude that the results provide academics and policy makers with rich data, illuminating differences and suggesting possible reasons for them. They hope that these new opportunities will give spark to more collaborative work between the social and medical sciences.