Northern Swedes still living dangerously

People in Sweden's most sparsely populated areas tend to be overweight, eat relatively little fruit and vegetables, and are more likely to use tobacco than people in the rest of the country.

A recent report from the Swedish National Institute of Public Health makes for grim reading for inhabitants of the country’s thinly populated upper half.

“It’s not surprising that people in these areas lead more unhealthy lives. A lot of it is due to selection phenomena.

“There are few jobs, meaning that those who are educated move elsewhere.

“The ones who are left behind are often old or not so well educated,” Gunnel Boström from the Institute of Public Health told The Local.

A sparsely populated area is defined as one in which fewer than 27,000 inhabitants live within a 30 kilometre radius of the centre of the municipality. Boström estimates that up to 80 percent of these areas are to be found in the northern part of the country.

A total of 60,000 people responded to the survey, which threw up a host of interesting findings.

For example, women in the wilderness are heavier smokers than their counterparts in the rest of the country. They also exercise less and spend more time sitting down.

Men in the same regions use more moist snuff and drink larger quantities of alcohol than those in more densely populated corners of the realm.

City women have one thing in common with men in the countryside. They are more likely to be in the risk zone for alcohol addiction than woman in the country as a whole.

When it comes to scratch cards and football pools, women in Gothenburg and Malmö are most prone to gambling addictions.

Suicide statistics among men in sparsely populated areas are considerably higher than those for women and for men in the rest of the country.

“It’s hard to say why, but there are hypotheses.

“Many men in these areas hunt and they almost all have guns. So they have the possibility to kill themselves.

“Also, there are much more men than women in these areas and a lot of the men are lonely,” said Boström.