Well-being and health

All Helsinki residents – young, old or with functional defects – should have the opportunity to lead a good and fulfilling life and receive the necessary support and services at all stages of their life.
SDG 2: Zero hunger
SDG 3: good health and well-being
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

The promotion of well-being and health is a joint effort by all operators, based on sustainable development, including support and activities to strengthen the resources of various population groups, to improve living conditions and other structural frameworks, and to support equal opportunities for people to manage their health and well-being. This work is guided by the Helsinki Welfare Plan through the priorities specified for each council term.

The perspective of the welfare plan on promoting health and well-being is very broad and relates in particular to SDGs 3 (Good health and well-being), 2 (Zero hunger) and 10 (Reduced inequalities), but it is also linked to many other goals. Cultural well-being has also been highlighted as part of promoting health and well-being.

Resources affected by personal health

All Helsinki residents – young, old or with functional defects – should have the opportunity to lead a good and fulfilling life and receive the necessary support and services at all stages of their life. Health and welfare promotion influences the comfort of life of the citizens, improves their perceived well-being, quality of life and health and ensures that their everyday environments support a good and physically active life.

An individual’s experience of their health and well-being affects their resources and also reflects on, for example, quality of life, social relationships, activity in society and ability to manage in everyday life. For example, only 17% of citizens with feelings of loneliness considered their quality of life to be good on average. The same connection is seen in feelings of happiness; just 9% of lonely people had feelings of happiness, whereas over one-half of non-lonely people had experienced feelings of happiness in the past month.

Examples of our actions

Stadin Safka

Stadin safka develops the food aid process in Helsinki together with other food aid actors and utilises surplus food to benefit people. Stadin safka is a cooperation between the City of Helsinki and the Parish Union of Helsinki.

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Challenges include obesity and mental well-being

Lifestyle greatly influences health and well-being. Physical inactivity and obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse are all linked to morbidity and reduced capacity to work. Perceived income adequacy has a connection to physical activity, i.e. young people who feel very good about their family’s economic situation and residents who find it easy or quite easy to make a living are physically more active than the other population groups.

Obesity is a significant challenge in terms of national health. Based on the available statistics, the weight of children, young people and the working-age population is increasing. Obesity is one of the risk factors behind various public health problems. Work in lifestyle-related well-being and health promotion measures, such as weight control, oral health care, school food panels and the ‘child health clinic at day care’ operating model, were partially interrupted in spring 2020 due to COVID-19. However, during the council term, foundations have been laid and good practices have been tried, and their implementation and evaluation can be continued. According to population surveys carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental well-being of Helsinki residents was already at a lower level than in the whole country or elsewhere in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The views of the new mental health strategy on positive mental health by strengthening resources should also be made more visible.

Statistical pattern. Children in Helsinki experience more loneliness than children in the Helsinki metropolitan area or the whole country. Children in Helsinki experience more mood swings than in the whole country, but less than in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Young people in Helsinki experience more anxiety, symptoms of depression and loneliness than young people in the whole country or in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Adults in Helsinki experience more mental stress than in the whole country or in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Helsinki-based adults experience less loneliness than in the whole country, but more than in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Elderly people in Helsinki experience less mental stress and loneliness than in the whole country, but more than in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
The mental well-being of Helsinki residents is weaker than in the whole of Finland or elsewhere in the Helsinki metropolitan area

Making local nature sites easily accessible

Accessibility of the urban environment and green areas, for example, is an essential factor in promoting the well-being of urban residents. The proximity of green areas promotes physical activity and thereby also health and well-being.

A tool for measuring the accessibility and degree of use of green areas for the purposes of environmental planning was completed during the council term. The tool can be used to assess the adequacy of parks in connection with land use planning, as well as the need to renovate parks and improve their durability in use.

From the point of view of equality, local nature sites should be made easily accessible to all residents. For those in a weaker position, such as the elderly or people with reduced mobility or low income, it is not so easy to move to more remote nature conservation areas.

The rights and well-being of children are promoted in Helsinki in all divisions and in cooperation with organisations and other operators. Helsinki was approved in February 2021 for UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities model. The model is a tool that helps the municipality to make the right decisions for the well-being of children in the municipal administration and everyday services for children. The model helps municipalities to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable children in particular are respected.

Well-being and health status by age group

Children and young people

Although many early preventive services have been developed, mental health services and service chains have been improved and recreational activities have been promoted in recent years, concerns remain about the increased loneliness and mood swings of children and young people, children’s increased obesity and lack of physical activity, young people’s increased use of cannabis and easy access to drugs, and regional differences in hobbies and physical activity.

In promoting well-being and health and preventing social exclusion, it is important to enable participatory experiences, provide activities and hobbies, ensure good learning and safe growth and learning environments, and promote children’s and young people’s daily physical activities. All these activities contribute to positive experiences of mental well-being.

Infographic. 3.8% of comprehensive school children experience loneliness (0.6% points more than in 2017) and 11.9% of upper comprehensive school students (1% point more than in 2019)  1% of comprehensive school children feel that they do not have any good friends (0.1% points more than in 2017) and 10.3% of upper comprehensive school students feel that they do not have any friends (1.1% points more than in 2017).  7.7% of comprehensive school children experience bullying on a weekly basis (0.3% points less than in 2017) and 5.2% of upper comprehensive school students (0.3% points less than in 2017) 16% of comprehensive school children have experienced mood swings in the last two weeks (2.4% points more than in 2017)  15.7% of upper comprehensive school students have experienced moderate or severe anxiety in the last two weeks (2% points more than in 2017).

Adults

The majority of the adult population feel good about their quality of life and health and are happy, but there are still differences in the experiences of quality of life, health and happiness depending on perceived income adequacy. These differences may, in turn, be reflected in differences between population groups in lifestyles, mental well-being or morbidity.

In promoting well-being and health, it is essential to take into account the city’s well-being in terms of quality of life and health but, at the same time, also note how the extremes of well-being are emphasised.

Elderly

During this council term, numerous steps have been taken in the development of communication for the elderly and digital support services. Nevertheless, not all elderly people have equal opportunities in the use of electronic services. There is also room for improvement in the healthy lifestyles of the elderly, and city-wide actions are needed to promote the day-to-day mobility and functional capacity of the elderly.

Statistical pattern. 11.5% of the elderly in Helsinki engage in all of the healthy habits specified – i.e., they eat vegetables and fruit according to the recommendations, engage in light exercise or exercise several times a week and always get enough sleep. 34.7% of the elderly engage in two out of three healthy habits, 36.9% engage in one out of three healthy habits and 16.9% engage in none of the healthy habits.



The living habits of the elderly could be improved
. According to the recommendations applied in this analysis, the healthy habits are to 1) eat vegetables and fruits, 2) exercise lightly or exercise several times a week and 3) always get enough sleep.

Let everyday activate you

Helsinki has launched a Physical Activity Programme, with the aim of encouraging its residents to move more and sit less. Helsinki wants to make physical activity an easy and attractive choice in people’s everyday lives. Every step helps!

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Helsinki has particularly invested in physical activity

The main focus of health and well-being promotion in the current strategic period has been the promotion of everyday physical activity, which has been implemented through the Physical Activity Programme. The aim of the city strategy’s Physical Activity Programme is to increase the daily physical activity of residents of different ages and city employees, reduce sitting time and reduce the share of people who do not exercise in their spare time.

Achievements of the Physical Activity Programme

Small children

  • Content relating to physical activity has been strengthened in Helsinki’s early childhood education plan.
  • Almost all early childhood education units have joined the national programme for physical activities in early childhood education (Liikkuva varhaiskasvatus).
  • Physical activity plans have been drawn up for the playground units.
  • Early childhood education staff have been trained and bicycles have been purchased for playgrounds.
  • The city’s day-care centres received a donation of €50,000 for sports equipment from the Urlus Foundation.
  • A communication campaign promoting everyday physical activities for children (Anna arjen liikuttaa lasta) was carried out for parents of small children in cooperation with child health clinics, playgrounds, day-care centres, home service for families with children and the Culture and Leisure Division.
  • The Family Hullabaloo concept of Sports Services was extended to eight areas in 2020.

Schoolchildren and students

  • In 2019–2020, conditions for physical activities were improved in ten schoolyards with a separate appropriation.
  • Individual, low-threshold counselling for secondary school pupils has been extended to more than 20 comprehensive schools.
  • Helsinki has started cooperation with the Partnership for Healthy Cities to promote active mobility on the journey to and from school.
  • The “Anna arjen liikuttaa” campaign and parents’ meetings with physical activities took place in autumn 2020.
  • A digital hobby pass has been introduced for secondary school pupils.
  • Schools in Helsinki have been jointly providing time for hobby activities each Wednesday since the autumn term 2019.
  • The operating model for physical activities at school (Liikkuva opiskelu) has been extended to all Helsinki upper secondary schools and Helsinki Vocational College campuses.

City staff

  • An office workout application has been installed on all employees’ workstations.
  • The opportunity to use city bikes has been made a staff benefit.
  • In cooperation between occupational health care and Sports Services, a sports training model has been developed in which the employee receives personal support from a sports professional for a personal lifestyle change.
  • In 2020, a new Most Active Workplace (Liikkuvin työpaikka) competition was launched, attracting more than 1,600 employees.
  • In summer 2020, an innovation challenge was organised for companies for the first time, seeking new solutions to increase the physical activity of staff.

Elderly

  • More than 70% of home care clients have a Mobility Agreement in place. The use of the agreement will be extended to all hospital, rehabilitation and care services in 2021.
  • During COVID-19, investments have been made in the mobility of the elderly by implementing the YLE exercise sessions as a joint effort by YLE and the City of Helsinki.
  • In collaboration with Harvard University and the Bloomberg Philanthropies Foundation, an innovation programme for mobility for the elderly has been implemented.
  • In 2021, the mobility of the elderly was made a common goal of the city’s health and well-being promotion.

Successes

  • The majority of Helsinki residents feel good about their quality of life and are happy.
  • Low-threshold mental health services have been opened in Myllypuro and Kalasatama, and service chains for children and young people have been described.
  • During the Sutjakka Stadi action plan for obesity prevention and treatment (2015–2020), many measures were taken to prevent obesity, including in child health clinics and schools.
  • The Mobility Agreement is a scheme for systematically supporting the day-to-day mobility of elderly people during home care visits. The Mobility Agreement has been signed by 73% of the home care clients.
  • Helsinki has been awarded at the Finnish Sports Gala with both the Most Active Finnish Municipality and the Most Active Workplace awards.
  • There is a growing understanding of the importance of daily physical activity. Hundreds of thousands of Helsinki residents have been reached through campaigns, events, websites and materials.

Development targets

  • There are differences in quality of life, health and happiness depending on perceived income adequacy.
  • The mental well-being of Helsinki residents is weaker than in the country on average. Child welfare notifications due to mental well-being or substance abuse have increased.
  • Despite the numerous measures taken, overweight and obesity have not decreased in Helsinki during the action plan, but the weight of children, young people and the working-age population is increasing. Obesity is a significant challenge in terms of national health.
  • There are major differences between districts in health status and physical activity. The differences have been growing.
  • COVID-19 has reduced the amount of physical activity in everyday routines and hobbies and has caused delays in the activities. Stamina among schoolchildren has been on the decline.
  • There are projects, experiments and good practices, but there are challenges in getting them established. The integration of physical activity into the basic activities of the divisions is incomplete and random.