Let’s do some math: how healthy was the resident of Leiden in 2020?

Leiden did remain regional champion soft drugs.

Leiden residents felt healthier last year than in 2016. They thus followed a national trend, except that our city and region scored above average again. But how can that be: healthier, during a pandemic? What exactly went better and what didn’t?

First the good news. No less than 82 percent of adult Leiden residents rated their own health as ‘good’ to ‘very good’ in the autumn of 2020. That score was five points higher than four years ago, when 77 percent gave such a positive answer.

Read all articles back in the ‘Just check’ file of Key City

There was also progress nationally, but in Leiden and the surrounding area it was stronger. The GGD region of Hollands Midden was even the top scorer, with 82 percent residents who felt healthy (compared to 79 percent nationwide). And at municipal level Zoeterwoude was a winner. There, more than 86 percent felt healthy, an increase of four points.

Mass participation
These surprising figures do not come from a quick asshole investigation. They are the result of the national Health Monitor for adults and the elderly, a large-scale study that Statistics Netherlands and the GGDs jointly organize once every four years. In total there were 540,000 participants last year.

Due to this massive participation, the results are reliable down to village and district level. It just takes a lot of time to process everything properly. Statistics Netherlands published national and regional results in mid-June, followed this week by the figures per municipality. Scores per district are expected later.

Trend of wave
Yet such a large survey is a snapshot. And this one fell at a special moment: in 2020, the first corona year, with its long lockdowns and curfew. At that time it was all still fairly new and we reacted fresh to it. In 2021 with its ‘corona fatigue’, some results would probably be different. That is why the GGD Hollands Midden wants to carry out accelerated follow-up research.

Another side note: the results for 2020 are clearly better than 2016, but if you also include 2012, it turns out differently. In that year, 81 percent of adult Leiden residents felt healthy. That is only one point less than last year. And from 81 to 77 and then 82 percent: that is not a hard trend, but rather a wave.

Then the progress of the last four years remains striking. Clearly more adults felt healthy in 2020 than in 2016. And the proportion who considered their own health ‘poor’ fell sharply: from 4.2 to 2.8 percent. More people of the over-65s felt unhealthy (6.2 percent), but that was also slightly less than four years ago.

More sport, less movement
High time to peel off what lies hidden under that concept of ‘health’. First the body and what we did with it: sports for example. Also in corona year 2020, 58 percent of adults in Leiden continued to exercise at least once a week, clearly more than the national 51 percent and four points higher than in 2016.

In Voorschoten (58 percent) and especially Oegstgeest (59 percent) just as many people continued to exercise. The message that you had to keep moving in corona time apparently came across well.

But did we move enough? That is disappointing. According to the national exercise guideline you should be moving for at least half an hour five times a week. With one hour of hard cycling a week you are not there yet.

According to this yardstick, we went backwards on that. In 2016, 63 percent of adult Leiden residents met the physical activity standard; that dropped to 56 percent. Still above average, but a clear drop.

The elderly were left behind
The good news that Leiden exercised above average only applies to 64-min. This includes many students and relatively young academics and HBO graduates.

You get a different picture with the over-65s. While the sports participation of younger adults rose to 63 percent, of the elderly only 37 percent took part in sport on a weekly basis. That difference also existed elsewhere, but in Leiden the gap was extra large. And he grew: the younger Leiden resident started exercising more, while everything remained the same for the elderly.

The Leiden elderly lagged behind on several fronts. An increase in overweight among them (from 54 to 56 percent), not among the younger adults (from 38 to 37 percent). There was also no increase in overweight among the elderly nationally and regionally.

Smoking and drinking
The Leiden over-65s also did not participate in the trend that more people started to feel healthy. Among young people this share rose from 80 to 86 percent, among the elderly it remained at 64 percent. Elsewhere, more elderly people started to feel healthy: nationally, this went from 62 to 67 percent. It also improved regionally.

But it is far from explained why Leiden elderly people fell behind in terms of health. The GGD hopes to find out in the near future, so that it can also give advice to the municipality.

In addition to a lack of exercise, alcohol and smoking could play a role. But on both fronts, the elderly in Leiden show a decent decline. They smoke slightly less than the national average (9 to 10 percent). And the proportion of heavy drinkers is falling faster than elsewhere, although it is still slightly above average (6 to 5 percent). So not too bad numbers.

Champion soft drugs
The under 64s are clearly more likely to smoke (20 percent) and drink heavily (12 percent) than among the elderly. The latter in particular can partly be due to student life. But the good news is that these numbers are also falling.

What is not declining is the use of soft drugs. Leiden is regional champion in this. Of all under 64s, 16 percent now use soft drugs (was 14). That is twice as much as elsewhere in the region. And the hard drugs are advancing even faster. Their use went from 7.2 to 10 percent. There are no separate figures for young adults, but they must be tens of percentages of users.

Loneliness and stress
That increased drug use is quite remarkable, because in 2020 there were few parties where people could run into XTC or other pills. Blowing, swallowing or injecting was therefore rather a solitary activity.

Loneliness was also asked. In Leiden, 11 percent of the adults turned out to feel seriously lonely. That was above the regional average, but almost equal to the national percentage. And only among the over-65s was there slightly more loneliness in Leiden than four years ago; not in young adults.

It is very different with stress. This reached a peak among adults under 65 in Leiden last year: 28 percent of the respondents reported experiencing ‘a lot of stress’, six points more than in 2016 and seven points higher than the national average.

The elderly in Leiden were reasonably unaffected by stress: 9 percent of them got a lot out of it. In this way, the health suffering was still somewhat fairly divided between young and old.

This is episode 12 of “Just Checking Out”. The research for this weekly column is supported by the Leiden Media Fund

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