Denmark occupies an unfavourable first place as the Nordic country where most adults smoke daily and most frequently drink alcohol. These are some of the key findings of the second Nordic monitoring of diet, physical activity and overweight headed by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. Data on adults’ smoking and alcohol behaviour were included in the last data collection.
The National Food Institute in cooperation with researchers from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have conducted the second Nordic monitoring of diet, physical activity and overweight for the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Highest proportion of daily smokers among the Danes
Data show that one in five adults aged 18-65 in the Nordic region smoke and that it is a daily habit for one in seven adults. Denmark has more daily smokers (21%) than the other Nordic countries (9-18%).
Social inequality in smoking is generally high in the Nordic region, as the proportion of smokers increases as the level of education decreases.
In the Nordic region the proportion of smokers – both those who smoke occasionally and those who smoke every day – is higher among the 18-24-year-olds than the 45-65-year-olds (23% vs 19%). The picture is reversed when it comes to daily smoking, as there are more daily smokers in the older age group that in the younger age group (16% vs 13%).
Danes drink alcohol more often
Adult Danes drink alcohol 2.5 times a week on average, which is more frequently than in the other Nordic countries (1.2-1.6 times per week). Danish men on average drink alcohol more frequently than Danish women (3.2 vs 1.7 times per week).
"Denmark’s unfavourable Nordic first place for smoking and alcohol is one of the main causes of loss of healthy life years and a shorter life expectancy than in the other Nordic countries. In the five Nordic countries, Danish women have the lowest life expectancy and Danish men have the second lowest life expectancy."
A total of 45% of adults in the Nordic region have been binge drinking at least once within the last month. The report defines binge drinking as consuming five or more units of alcohol on one drinking occasion.
Adults in the Nordic region generally drink alcohol more often as they get older. While the 18-44-year-olds drink alcohol 1.4 times a week, it is 2.2 times for the 45-65-year-olds. In contrast, the proportion of binge drinkers decreases with age: 64% of 18-24-year-olds report they have been binge drinking within the last month, while this is the case for only 36% of 45-65-year-olds.
Most and least favourable health behaviour in the Nordic region
A series of new fact sheets from the National Food Institute gives an overview of the public health situation in each of the five Nordic countries and in the Nordic region as a whole. They show status and the development from 2011 to 2014 for unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, high recreational screen time, overweight/obesity and obesity. The fact sheets also show status of these risk factors as well as alcohol and smoking.
"Overall the data show that public health is going in the wrong direction among adults in the Nordic region between 2011 and 2014. Among children in the Nordic region the overall picture is unchanged," Senior Adviser Sisse Fagt from the National Food Institute explains.
The fact sheets show which countries have the most and the least favourable health behaviour in the Nordic region. The health behaviour in Denmark is least favourable when it comes to daily smoking and alcohol consumption.
”Denmark’s unfavourable Nordic first place for smoking and alcohol is one of the main causes of loss of healthy life years and a shorter life expectancy than in the other Nordic countries. In the five Nordic countries, Danish women have the lowest life expectancy and Danish men have the second lowest life expectancy," Sisse Fagt says.
The study results are described in more detail in the report on the National Food Institute’s website: The Nordic Monitoring System 2011-2014 (pdf).
It is the second Nordic monitoring to be carried out, which makes it possible to compare diet, physical activity and overweight in the Nordic region and between the five Nordic countries over time. Data on adults’ smoking and alcohol behaviour were included in the last data collection. The National Food Institute has been responsible for conducting the Nordic monitoring both times.
Download the fact sheets on public health in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Nordic region from the National Food Institute’s website.
Please also read the National Food Institute’s press release from 19 January 2017: More adults in the Nordic region have an unhealthy diet and the press release from 25 January 2017: More obese adults in the Nordic region.
- The Nordic Monitoring System on diet, physical activity and overweight has been conducted in 2011 and 2014 in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In the two studies data have been collected among 4,949 children aged 7-12 and 17,775 adults aged 18-65 in the Nordic region.
- The study is based on a simple random sample of adults and children drawn from the national register in each of the five Nordic countries. Data were obtained by telephone interviews. Participants have been asked how often they eat selected foods, how much time they spend on physical activity and recreational screen time, their level of education as well as their height and weight. In 2014, adult participants have also been asked how often they smoke and drink alcohol.
- The studies show how public health has developed in the Nordic region in a number of areas between 2011 and 2014. The results are being used to evaluate status and development in the Nordic region and in each of the five Nordic countries in relation to the ‘Nordic Plan of Action on better health and quality of life through diet and physical activity’ from the Nordic Council of Ministers.
- The Nordic Monitoring System is the only Nordic population study, which collects comprehensive, comparative data on the health behaviour of children and adults over time.
- It costs approximately 35 euros per person to collect the data and is thereby a cost-effective way of collecting large amounts of comparative data on public health in the Nordic region.