Although eating habits in Sweden have largely deteriorated since 1980, some improvements have been observed in the most recent years. Between 1980 and 2010, the consumption of sweets rose from 10 to 15 kilos per person per year, while consumption of soft drinks increased from 30 to 90 litres. The average amount of energy consumed rose by 11 per cent, probably contributing to an increase in the number of overweight people.
Moreover, our energy intake is almost 10 per cent higher compared to 1980. Protein intake has shown a particularly stable rise. Swedes continue to eat too little fruit, vegetables and fish, according to the Swedish National Food Agency’s dietary recommendations. Fewer than one person in ten eats fruit and vegetables five times a day. Women have better eating habits than men, well-educated people have better eating habits than the less well-educated, and male workers on low incomes eat the least amount of fruit and vegetables.
The eating habits of children have improved in recent years. More children eat fruit and vegetables, and the consumption of soft drinks and sweets declined markedly between 2001 and 2005. However, children continue to consume excessive amounts of sweets, soft drinks, ice cream, snacks and pastry. On average, children drank 2 decilitres of soft/fruit drinks a day and ate 1.5 hectograms of sweets a week in 2003. Children who regularly eat breakfast often have better eating habits than other young people.
The desire to lose weight is fairly prevalent. Just over half the adult population have tried to lose weight or plan to do so. Nowadays, there are a number of methods for losing weight, and the debate between those who are for or against fat in the diet has become polarised. Most of these methods, however, involve increasing one’s consumption of vegetables, fruit and pulses and lowering one’s consumption of chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and snacks.
Physical activity has many positive effects on health and helps prevent the most common diseases. People who are least fit have the most to gain in terms of improved health by increasing their physical activity.
Physical inactivity during leisure time is more widespread among men than women. It is three times more common among women and men born outside Europe than among native-born Swedes. Physical inactivity has become less common among women in all socioeconomic groups according to the Survey of Living Conditions. In the case of men physical inactivity has only decreased among upper-level white-collar employees. Several other studies show no appreciable improvement, inactivity during leisure time is just as common today as it was 20 years ago.
Approximately two-thirds of adults are physically active for at least half an hour every day. The level of activity may be described as at least moderate, thus fulfilling the minimum recommended physical activity requirement. According to the Västerbotten Health Studies, the proportion of the population who are moderately active has declined in recent years. On the other hand, the amount of intense physical activity has risen, particularly among women. A higher level of physical activity is recommended for children and young people. However, this recommendation is only met by 10–20 per cent of children in Sweden, a lower figure than in most other European countries.
Sage Publications, 2012. Vol. 40, no 9 Suppl, 164-175 p.