According to the 2021 census, an estimated one third of the population have a long-term illness or health problem. This is 2 percentage points more than in the previous census in 2011. 28% of the population are limited in their daily activities because of a health problem.
As part of the census survey, people were asked if they had any long-standing illnesses or health problems. “It was irrelevant whether or not a disability or reduced capacity for work had been determined. What mattered was the person's assessment. It was also asked to what extent the person had felt limited in some of the daily activities because of a health problem in the past six months,” explained Liina Osila, Population and Housing Census project manager at Statistics Estonia Statistikaamet. .
The results of the 2021 census show that a third (33%) of Estonia’s population have a long-standing illness or health problem. This figure was slightly lower – 31% – at the time of the previous census in 2011.
An estimated 28% of the population feel limited in their daily activities because of a health problem. 18% of them said they were somewhat limited and 10% felt severely limited. In the previous census, 28% of the population also reported being limited due to a health problem, but back then 4 p.p. more people said they were severely limited (14%).
As expected, the oldest age group has the highest proportion of people with a long-standing illness or health problem. 69% of people over the age of 65 in Estonia suffer from a long-term illness or health problem. This percentage has remained stable between the two censuses.
The biggest positive change is that in the oldest age group (65 and over), there has been a significant decrease in the proportion of people who feel that health problems severely limit their daily activities, from 39% in 2011 to 24% in the 2021 census. “The fact that older people, despite their health problems, do not feel significantly limited in their daily lives shows that, in addition to good health services, our society is increasingly attentive to different needs, and this allows people to live a full life even with health problems,” said Osila.
The prevalence of health problems among young people, however, is now higher than at the time of the previous census, and the trend is reversed for them. 7% of children aged 0–14 had a long-standing illness or health problem in 2011, compared with 8% now. An even bigger increase is seen in the 15–29 age group: 14% of people in this bracket had a long-term illness or health problem in 2011, whereas now 17% do.
35% of women said they had a long-term health problem, while the figure was lower for men – 29%. This was also the case in the previous census (33% for women, 28% for men). “However, if we observe the gender gap by age groups, a significant difference is only seen among those aged 65 and over. The figures for younger age groups remain similar to before. It should be noted that the average life expectancy of women is also somewhat higher, which is why there are more women than men in the older age group,” Osila explained.