Mental stress, suicidal thoughts rise among working-age people

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The quality of life among working-age people has deteriorated dramatically in recent years, according to a study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The THL´s extensive Healthy Finland population study based on the survey data collected between September 2022 and March 2023 showed that only one in two working-age people feels that their quality of life is good, whereas four years ago, more than 60% of working-age people felt so, said THL in a press release on Monday.

Quality of life refers to a person’s perception of their own situation, such as health, welfare, social relationships and living environment.

According to the study, one in five working-age people (20 to 64-year-olds) experiences significant psychological stress. Psychological stress has greatly increased in both men and women compared to 2018: from 13% to 19% in men and from 13% to 20% in women. Psychological stress remains most common among people aged 20–29, but stress among those aged 30–49 has also increased.

“The results are worrying from the perspective of the social and economic sustainability of society. Although there have already been indications of a deteriorating trend in the welfare of working-age people, the crises in recent years have probably made the situation even more difficult. During the coming government term, the welfare of working-age people should be brought to the heart of decision-making, as an ageing Finnish society needs a healthy and functioning population,” said Principal Researcher Annamari Lundqvist.

Suicidal thoughts have become more common among people under the age of 50. While one in ten people under the age of 50 reported suicidal thoughts in 2018, now one in eight of them did.

“The implementation of the Programme for suicide prevention is now particularly important. The projects of the programme develop ways for anyone to be able to discuss concerns and what social welfare and health care professionals can do after identifying a risk of suicide. In addition, we encourage the preparation of a safety plan in case of suicidal thoughts and the utilisation of other methods of good care in health and social services more than at present,” said Research Professor Timo Partonen.

An increasing number of working-age people report having used health services due to mental health issues.

Now, 20% of working-age women say that they have used mental health services, compared to 15% in 2018. Men use mental health services less, and their use of the services has increased from 9% to 12%.

According to the study, access to health services has also become more difficult. Almost one in four adults feels that they do not receive sufficient medical services to meet their needs. This means that there are more than 800,000 people in Finland who feel that medical services are insufficient. This share has increased by almost 10 percentage points for both men and women since 2018, from 14% to 23% for men and from 17% to 27% for women. The results indicate the situation before the health and social services reform.

The situation is the most difficult in North Karelia, Central Uusimaa and Kainuu, where more than 30% of people feel that they receive insufficient medical services to meet their needs.

“The new wellbeing services counties have a difficult starting point that they should be able to respond to. The poor development is likely to be affected by several factors, such as the COVID-19 care debt, the delay in the health and social services reform and the personnel shortage. In Finland, less money is also spent on health care than in Western Europe,” said Chief Specialist Anna-Mari Aalto.

“There is no single solution to this complicated situation. The new wellbeing services counties will finally have the opportunity to start developing the service structure of the county and finding solutions for improving the availability of services,” Aalto added.

A total of 61,600 randomly selected persons aged 20 or over from different parts of Finland were invited to the survey section of the Healthy Finland study. The sample has been formed so that the results can be generalised throughout Finland and by wellbeing services county and 46% of those invited responded to the survey.

  •  Mental stress
  •  Suicidal thoughts
  •  Rise


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