Swedes – the healthiest in the EU?

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The image of the healthy, well-trained Swede has found support in some research from the Europabarometer released recently.

 According to this research, ‘41% of Europeans exercise or play sport at least once a week, while an important proportion of EU citizens (59%) never or seldom do so.’

Generally speaking, ”citizens in the Northern part of the EU are the most physically active. The proportion that exercises or plays sport at least once a week is 70% in Sweden, 68% in Denmark, 66% in Finland, 58% in the Netherlands and 54% in Luxembourg. The lowest levels of participation are clustered in the Southern EU Member States. Most respondents who never exercise or play sport can be found in Bulgaria (78%), Malta (75%), Portugal (64%), Romania (60%) and Italy (60%).”

So, Sweden tops this research at 70% of interviewees saying the exercise at least once a week, closely followed by Denmark and Finland. Why might this be? Why could there be such a difference between Scandinavian countries and the Southern European countries?

  • One answer could be the climate – maybe the long, dark winters require some kind of exercise regime in order for us to survive?  
  • Another answer might be ‘peer pressure’ or ‘training hysteria’ as it’s sometimes called in Sweden. Does a tendency to Group Think mean that we follow what others are doing in order to be ‘in’?

I think a major contributing factor is values. We all know that values differ from group to group , and that those values often determine the desired behaviours of the people.

According to the respected ‘World Values Survey’, in Scandinavia, and in Sweden especially, a strong value is self-actualisation, or self-realisation. In other words, we as individuals have the right to be who we want to be, live how we want to live, think what we want to think and make the most of ourselves in the way we choose.

While other countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are focusing on how to survive the day, many Swedes are focusing on self-development, education, environmentalism and, not least, physical appearance and health.

So that Sweden comes out top in this research is not surprising. In Sweden, most of the serious ‘survival problems’ of life have already been solved, allowing many citizens to focus on other things.

Such as themselves.

If you’re interested in reading more about the research, find it here.

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