Health behaviour in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania 1994-1998. Standardized comparison.

Pekka Puska , Ville Helasoja , Ritva Prättälä , Anu Kasmel , Jurate Klumbiene

BACKGROUND: The Finbalt Health Monitor project collects standardized information on health and health-related behavioural activity and related trends in Finland and those Baltic countries that have major public health problems with noncommunicable diseases related to lifestyle and behavioural factors. The aims of this study were to compare patterns of and trends in selected health behaviours and their socioeconomic associations in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania in the period 1994-1998. METHODS: Standardized questionnaires were posted to nationally representative samples in 1994, 1996 and 1998. Response rates varied between 62% and 83%. The total number of respondents was 3808 in Estonia, 9608 in Finland and 5716 in Lithuania. Prevalence of smoking, consumption of strong alcoholic beverages, use of vegetable oil in food preparation and leisure-time physical exercise were analysed in this study. RESULTS: No major changes in daily smoking, consumption of strong alcoholic beverages and leisure-time physical exercise emerged. However, the use of vegetable oil increased rapidly in Estonia and particularly in Lithuania (from 41% to 81%). In 1994 the prevalence of daily smoking was 53%, 28% and 44% among men and 24%, 18% and 6% among women in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania, respectively. In Lithuania the prevalence of smoking among women was notably low but increased (from 6% to 13%). The prevalence of strong alcoholic beverage consumption was similar in all countries. Leisure-time physical exercise was most common in Finland. The socioeconomic differences remained similar in all countries, unhealthy behaviours were typical among the less educated groups and men, especially in the age groups 34-49 years. CONCLUSIONS: The sociodemographic pattern of risk-related lifestyles appears to be rather similar and stable in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania. However, from the view point of possible public health implications the rapid changes in the prevalences of some behaviours are notable.

Eur J Public Health. 2003 Mar ;13 (1):11-7