A woman stressed at the workplace. LEHTIKUVA

Health & wellbeing

The quality of life among the working-age population has significantly deteriorated in recent years. Only every other working-age individual now considers their quality of life good, whereas four years ago, over 60 percent of working-age individuals felt the same way. Quality of life refers to a person's perception of their own situation, including their health, well-being, social relationships, and living environment.

These findings emerge from a comprehensive population study called "Terve Suomi" conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The survey data was collected between September 2022 and March 2023.

According to the study, one in five working-age individuals, aged 20 to 64, experiences significant psychological strain. Mental strain has increased markedly among both men and women compared to 2018: from 13 percent to 19 percent among men and from 13 percent to 20 percent among women. Psychological strain remains most prevalent among individuals aged 20 to 29, but there has also been an increase among those aged 30 to 49.

"The results are concerning from the perspective of societal social and economic sustainability. While there have been indications of the declining well-being of the working-age population previously, the crises of recent years have likely further complicated the situation. During the upcoming government term, the well-being of working-age individuals must be placed at the core of decision-making, as an aging Finnish society requires a healthy and functional population," says lead researcher Annamari Lundqvist.

Suicidal thoughts have become more prevalent among those under 50 years old. While in 2018, one in ten individuals reported having suicidal thoughts, now the number has risen to one in eight among those under 50.

"The implementation of suicide prevention programs is now particularly crucial. These programs aim to develop ways for anyone to address concerns and guide healthcare professionals on what to do after identifying suicide risk. Additionally, we encourage individuals to create safety plans in case of suicidal thoughts and promote the use of other effective treatment methods in social and healthcare services," explains research professor Timo Partonen.

An increasing number of working-age individuals report utilizing mental health services due to mental health-related problems. Currently, 20 percent of women and 12 percent of men in this age group state that they have used mental health services, compared to 15 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in 2018.

The study also reveals that access to healthcare services has become more challenging. Nearly one in four adults feel that they do not receive sufficient medical services relative to their needs. This means that over 800,000 individuals in Finland perceive medical services as inadequate. The proportion has increased by almost 10 percentage points among both men and women since 2018: from 14 percent to 23 percent among men and from 17 percent to 27 percent among women. These findings reflect the situation prior to the social and healthcare reform.

The most challenging situations regarding access to doctors are found in North Karelia, Central Uusimaa, and Kainuu, where over 30 percent of residents feel they receive insufficient medical services relative to their needs.

"The new well-being regions face a difficult starting point that they must address. The poor development is likely influenced by several factors, such as the backlog of COVID-19 treatment, the delayed social and healthcare reform, and personnel shortages. Finland also allocates less funding to healthcare compared to Western European countries," states senior expert Anna-Mari Aalto.

"There is no single solution to this complex situation. The new well-being regions now have the opportunity to develop the service structure of their regions and seek solutions to improve service availability," Aalto adds.

The survey portion of the "Terve Suomi" study invited 61,600 randomly selected individuals aged 20 or older from various parts of Finland to participate. The sample was constructed in a manner that allows for generalization of the results to the whole of Finland and the well-being regions. Of those invited to the study, 46 percent responded to the survey between September 2022 and March 2023.

Data from 2018 and 2020 is based on the FinSote study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).