Mixed health competence situation in Switzerland


A large share of the Swiss population find it difficult to make decisions beneficial to their health in their daily lives.

In 2015, the Federal Office of Public Health and the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, together with the Swiss foundation for the promotion of public health (Stiftung Gesundheitsförderung), conducted a study on health competencies in Switzerland. The internationally comparable survey measures the ability of individuals to make decisions in their daily lives that have a positive impact on their health. The study shows mixed results: The health competence of most of those interviewed was adequate (36%) or problematic (45%). This means that insufficient health competences are widespread in Switzerland. However, the problem is not very deep-seated: only 9% of those interviewed had insufficient health competencies. Particularly people who are financially worse off find it difficult to make decisions that benefit their health.

Nutrition is also affected

People in Switzerland find it particularly difficult to understand the benefits of vaccination and to see the advantages and disadvantages of medical treatments. The moderate level of health competences also concerns nutrition: 37% of those surveyed have difficulties understanding the information printed on food packaging. This share is higher than in Greece, Poland, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands.