A survey shows 80 per cent of Swiss people feel fit and healthy, the highest percentage in Europe. However, it also confirms the prevailing view that socially and economically disadvantaged people are in less good health.
The survey was conducted in 1997 by the federal office for statistics but the results in full have only just been published. Compared to the first survey in 1992, the latest results show improvements in healthy eating habits. However, they also show a decrease in physical exercise.
"Despite the fitness craze, less and less people are breaking out into a sweat," said Richard Müller, director of the Office for Alcohol and Drug Problems. He added that despite the fashion for having a wash-board stomach, "we're getting fatter."
The report also found that the self-image of poorer sections of society was less healthy, with people from disadvantaged backgrounds suffering more often from long-term health problems. In addition the survey showed the percentage of poorer people feeling unhealthy had grown since 1992.
Education was also found to be a significant factor. Less-educated people were twice as likely as well-educated people to describe their health as moderate or bad.
However, compared to the rest of Europe, the Swiss as a whole feel the most positive about their health, a fact which made Thomas Zeltner, director of the federal health office, "satisfied, proud and grateful".
The survey also showed the frequency of the main chronic diseases in Swiss men and women between the ages of 25 and 69 was lower than in countries in northern and southern Europe. Moreover, Switzerland is no longer one of the top countries for alcohol and tobacco consumption.
However, the survey revealed more and more teenagers are taking up smoking. The number of teenage girls smoking cigarettes has mnore than doubled since 1992 from 18.3 per cent to 38 per cent.
Almost twice as many young people between 15 and 39 are also experimenting with marijuana. The proportion has risen from 16.3 per cent to 26.7 per cent.
Other figures in the report show that while fewer people visit the doctor, the number of people having hospital treatment is up seven per cent form 1992. The biggest trend, is in alternative therapies. The number of people going in for treatments is up by 53 per cent.
The next nationawide health survey will be conducted in 2002.
swissinfo with agencies