Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals

: 2015  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 57--58

Estonian people's assessment of their health and eating habits

Virve-Ines Laidmae 
 Department of Sociology, Tallinn University, Estonia

Correspondence Address:
Virve-Ines Laidmae
Tallinn University, Tallinn

How to cite this article:
Laidmae VI. Estonian people's assessment of their health and eating habits.J Med Nutr Nutraceut 2015;4:57-58

How to cite this URL:
Laidmae VI. Estonian people's assessment of their health and eating habits. J Med Nutr Nutraceut [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Oct 24 ];4:57-58
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It is said that the health of a person is such an elusive and intimate area that it cannot be analyzed with exact sociological methods. However, there are also contradictory opinions, which find that the data of surveys act as "agents" that reveal even the best-hidden aspects of people's health. [1]

Surveys of the health behavior of adult population have been conducted in Estonia every 2 years starting from 1990. The latest survey was in 2012, during which 2969 individuals in the age of 16-64 were interviewed. [2] This data gives us a good overview of the state of health and health behavior of the Estonian people. It shows, for example, that in 1990, the percentage of people with diabetes was 1.4, but by 2012, it had increased to 8.4. The number of people with diabetes is, especially high among people aged 55-64, with every fifth elderly person suffering from diabetes. The percentage of people with diabetes is significantly lower than average among those respondents who have higher education, live in a rural area or have a higher income (4-6%). In contrast, the percentage is significantly higher than average among non-Estonians, the unemployed, the respondents with low income and the divorced (11-14%).

The results of the survey indicate the spread of other health problems. Every third Estonian suffers from insomnia and sleep disorders, two people in three experience headaches, every second person in Estonia has back or neck and shoulder pains; 40% of the respondents report joint pains and every fifth has problems with constipation; it is also worth considering that every second person in Estonia has long-term health problems.

More attention should also be paid to the mental health of the population, for example to the fact that every second person in Estonia has experienced exhaustion almost always/quite often within the past 12 months, every fifth person admits having felt stress that is almost intolerable/more than is normal within the past 30 days, and in addition, every fourth person in Estonia has felt down/unhappy much more/somewhat more than before within the past 30 days.

But what have people done to maintain their health? On one hand, one-third of the respondents give an estimation of very good/quite good to their physical form/bodily abilities and a third of the population has been engaged in health sports for ΍ h at least 2-3 times a week. On the other hand, activities hazardous to health are also quite common (one-fourth of the respondents are everyday smokers and two-thirds consume alcohol at least a few times a month). Meanwhile, men are much more active than women.

In Estonia, a lot of work has been done to promote a healthy life style and good eating habits. Four out of five respondents have breakfast; the percentage is even higher in the age group of 55-64, especially among women−89%. Every fifth respondent has no breakfast or has it rarely. The differences are notable across different educational levels (the difference in lower/higher-educated groups is respectively 31% and 12%).

Fresh vegetables are eaten every week by 44% of males and 58% of the females. In this aspect, the group with higher education surpasses all others. For the question regarding the consumption of fresh fruit/berries within the last 7 days, 28% answered that they eat them almost every day. 13% on average had not consumed fruit/berries at all in the last 7 days; the percentage was especially high among people with a lower educational level, non-Estonians and people with lower income (16-19%) and extremely high among the unemployed (24%).

Simultaneously, people are aware of the correct health behavior and have made several changes in their life or eating habits for health reasons: For example, every fifth person has used less fat; every sixth or seventh claims to eat more vegetables and consume less sugar and alcohol and has increased their physical activity; every ninth or tenth has paid attention to consuming more vegetable fat and less salt in their food and has been on a diet in order to lose weight.

Overall, men eat less healthily than women - they ate vegetables, fruit/berries, rye and wholegrain bread less frequently and in smaller amounts than women; on the other hand, they consumed energy drinks and alcohol more frequently and the percentage of smokers was twice as high as in women.

The positive results of health campaigns can also be seen in the fact that 63% of the people use reflectors during the dark period. Men are more careless in this regard, with only every second man carrying a reflector, whereas in women, the percentage is 72. Safety belts are used by most drivers (99%). Unfortunately, there is one negative tendency - people speak with mobile phones while holding them in their hand during driving (75% of men and 61% of women). This is the cause of many traffic accidents in Estonia.

Excessive weight continues to be a serious problem among adults. 36% of men and 26% of women are overweight. Every fifth respondent suffers from obesity. The number of obese persons has increased more rapidly among men, so that the head start on women has almost leveled. The number of obese people is the highest among the 55-64 year old and in most age groups, the percentage of men is higher compared to women. [3]

On the basis of the survey results, it is no surprise that healthy life expectancy of 20-year-old Estonian men (+48.2 years) is almost 9 years shorter than for women of the same age. This gap decreases with age - in 60-year-old men (+12.4 years), it is only 4 years shorter than in women. [3]


1Shetty R, Jena B, Kadithi A. Can social scientists be the change agents for diabetes prevention? Diabetes-related knowledge, attitude, and practice among social scientists. J Soc Health Diabetes 2013;1:32-6.
2Tekkel M, Veideman M. 2012. Health Behavior among Estonian Adult Population, Tallinn 2013. Available from: mebaas. [Last accessed on 2013 Apr 01].
3Tekkel M. Estonian adult population health behavior: Key results of the 2012 survey. Available from: http://www. aitumise-uuring-2012-tahtsamad-tulemused. [Last accessed on 2013 Apr 01].