Information on the state of health was collected through the population and housing census survey from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022. Specifically, people were asked whether they had a long-standing illness or health problem, and to what extent they had been limited in some of the usual activities of daily living because of a health problem in the past 6 months. Social constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic were not included. An illness or health problem is considered long-standing if it has lasted for 6 months or is expected to last for at least 6 months. Both mental and physical health are meant here. Information on the nature of the health problem was not collected in the census.
Nearly half of the total population of Estonia participated in the survey, and the breakdowns were calculated taking into account the people who refused to answer the question. The aim of the survey was to find estimates for the questions asked. A more detailed description of the survey can be found in the methodology document.
According to the 2021 census, it is estimated that one third (33%) of the population have a long-term illness or health problem. At the time of the previous census in 2011, the figure was slightly lower – 31%.
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%).
|Severely limited||Limited but not severely||Not limited at all|
Older people are less and less restricted by health problems
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 feeling severely limited in their daily activities because of health problems, from 39% in 2011 to 24% in the 2021 census. This is a drop of a full 15 percentage points.
The prevalence of health problems among young people, however, is now higher than at the time of the previous census, and the trend is unfortunately reversed for them. According to the 2021 census, there are slightly more people with a long-term illness or health problem among the younger population than before, and presence of a health issue is more strongly linked to limitations in daily activities. 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 felt limited in their daily lives because of health problems in 2011, whereas now 17% do.
Women experience long-standing health problems more often
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).
As women have more long-term illnesses and health problems, it is logical that they also feel more limited in their daily activities than men (women: severely limited 11%, somewhat limited 19%; men: 9% and 16%, respectively).
Prevalence of health problems is highest in Põlva and Ida-Viru counties, lowest in Harju county
The proportion of people with long-term health problems is highest in rural areas, where it is estimated at 35%. In city settlement regions their share is 32%, and the figure is lowest in town settlement regions – 27%.
Ida-Viru county and some of the counties in Southern Estonia stand out more distinctly among the others. The share of people with long-standing health problems is largest in Põlva and Ida-Viru counties, where 42% of people live with long-term health issues, which is almost 9 p.p. more than the Estonian average (33%). In Valga and Jõgeva counties, persons with long-standing health problems account for 41%.
The ranking is similar when looking at the proportion of people whose daily activities are limited due to health problems. Their share is highest in Põlva county, where 42% of the population feel limited by a health issue, followed by Võru county with 37% and Valga and Ida-Viru counties with 36% each. Estonia’s average is 28%.
People are in the best health in Harju county, where an estimated 27% of the population have a long-standing health problem. This is nearly 6 p.p. less than the average in Estonia (33%) and a third less than in Põlva and Ida-Viru counties.
In all municipalities, people who do not have a long-standing health problem outnumber those who do. However, in some municipalities, the percentage of people with long-term health problems is significantly higher than in others. For instance, persons with long-standing health issues in Räpina and Setomaa rural municipalities account for 46%. In each rural municipality, nearly half of the population (48%) are limited by a health problem in their daily activities.
Kiili and Rae rural municipalities stand out with a healthier populace. The proportion of people with long-term health problems there is more than twice smaller than in the municipalities at the other extreme – 20%. An estimated 18% of people in each of these rural municipalities report being limited by a health problem in everyday activities.
Estonians are in better health than other ethnicities living here
Across nationalities, Estonians are generally healthier than other ethnicities. However, the differences are not very large. 31% of ethnic Estonians have a long-standing health problem, whereas 35% of Russians and 34% of other nationalities do. People of other ethnicities were the least likely to have had restrictions on their daily life due to a health issue in the past 6 months – 27%, followed by Estonians with 28% and Russians with 29%.
People with higher education have the fewest health problems
Looking at how educational attainment relates to people's health, it turns out that people with higher education have the lowest rates of long-term illness or health problems.
34% of people with higher education have a health problem and 27% feel limited in their daily activities because of it. Of those with secondary education, 39% report having a long-standing health problem and a third (33%) are limited in their everyday activities. The corresponding figures for people with basic education are 40% and 36%.