Swiss weigh and worry more

When the stress bites, workers fall prey to a host of illnesses Keystone

One in three people in Switzerland is overweight, according to a government study published on Friday.

This content was published on October 31, 2003 - 14:33

The census, conducted every five years, also confirms that work-related stress is on the rise and that the number of cannabis users has doubled in the past ten years.

“The nutritional behaviour is changing, as are our lifestyles. People eat several times a day, including fast foods,” Walter Weiss, a social psychologist from the Federal Statistics Office, told swissinfo.

Based on data supplied by 19,700 people, the statistics office says 37 per cent of people in Switzerland are overweight.

Although it is mostly middle-aged adults who are affected, medical experts are concerned that the problem begins much earlier.

Inactive lifestyles and high-fat eating patterns among the young are the prime suspects for the nation’s burgeoning bodyweight.

Equally, there are fears that some people are not eating enough. In the 15-24 age bracket, 44 per cent of young women are classified as underweight and 26 per cent of them would like to be thinner.

Job security

Work-related stress has made the headlines recently in Switzerland, as claims for invalidity benefit have rocketed.

“If people have few opportunities to cope with stress than it can be a health problem.

The structure of work has changed, and there is more competition, and this means work becomes less rewarding and causes more pressure,” Weiss said.

The latest statistics have confirmed this trend, with some 44 per cent of those interviewed blaming health problems on the workplace.

Fears over job security and bigger workloads are generally held to be responsible for a wide range of complaints.

These range from headaches and backaches to digestive disorders and sleeping difficulties.

Cannabis use

The number of people who have an alcoholic drink every day has dropped from 20 per cent in 1992 to 16 per cent in 2002.

The number of teetotallers has gone up from 16 per cent to 23 per cent over the same period.

More women than men have packed in drinking, while cutting down on a daily tipple is largely a male phenomenon.

Although alcohol consumption has dropped over the last ten years, the number of cannabis users has doubled over the same period.

“I think we have to look at the increased availability of cannabis and the fact that it is also now part of Switzerland’s youth culture,” said Weiss.

Last year, some 225,000 people – nearly five per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64 – consumed cannabis.

Young people aged 15-24 are the most regular users and they are smoking dope more frequently than ever before.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

A new health survey says 37% of people in Switzerland are overweight.
Some 44% of those asked, attributed health problems to work-related stress.
The number of cannabis users has doubled since 1992 while regular alcohol consumption has declined.

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