Table of Contents

  • The governments of the Nordic countries have committed themselves nationally to address the issue of an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and overweight and enacted policies to promote a healthier lifestyle. The Nordic Council of Ministers wants to underline these commitments by formulating common Nordic ambitions on combating an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and overweight by drawing up a joint Nordic Action Plan in 2006.

  • As an important element in the Nordic Plan of Action on better Health and Quality of Life through diet and physical activity, the Nordic Council of Ministers decided to carry out a joint Nordic monitoring study of diet, physical activity and overweight. The current report describes the results of the first collection of data in the five Nordic countries. The aim of this first study was to provide baseline data for frequency of intake in selected foods; physical activity level and prevalence of overweight and obesity in the Nordic countries. Furthermore, the objectives are to compare results between countries and to compare with existing recommendations where possible. A further objective is to investigate social inequality in diet and physical activity.

  • As an important element in the Nordic Plan of Action, the Nordic Council of Ministers decided to carry out a joint Nordic monitoring of diet, physical activity and overweight. A Nordic working group consisting of scientists from Nordic research institutions was established to carry out this task.

  • The objective is to perform a joint Nordic monitoring of diet, physical activity and overweight. This monitoring system use simple indicator questions and is planned to be carried out every second year.

  • Telephone interviews were performed in the 5 Nordic countries with a validated questionnaire (Fagt et al 2012). The questionnaire (NFFQ) was simple with indicator questions regarding diet, physical activity, body weight and height, and a few background questions. It took approximately 15 minutes to perform. The questionnaire contained the same questions in all countries except for the questions regarding bread which differed in Sweden and Iceland due to different bread habits.

  • The number of invited adults, the number of participants and the participation rate are shown in Table 2. The participation rate differed appreciable between countries with Denmark having a higher participation rate than the other countries. Norway had a very low participation rate.

  • Questions regarding smoking were not included in the questionnaire. However, smoking habits have been included in other representative surveys in the Nordic countries. The surveys differ from country to country with respect to number included, age groups and the way data were collected but still the data give a reasonable indication of smoking habits in the five countries.

  • In the present study, questions regarding alcohol intake have not been included but questions regarding alcohol intake have been included in other surveys in all countries. However, the questions asked in the various surveys are not comparable.

  • The monitoring project provides comparable results on more than 11.500 participants in the Nordic region on diet, physical activity and overweight.

  • All countries are far from the goals of vegetable and fruit intake, sugar rich food is consumed more than 5 times a day in all countries, the intake of fish is low except in Iceland and in adults in Norway and too few children are physically active at least 1 hour a day. There are areas to be improved in all countries and according to this study there are some differences between countries; Denmark have the highest proportion who do not use spread on bread, but have fish more seldom than in the other countries. In Finland a higher proportion than in other countries use Becel Pro Activ on bread and more are physical active. Sweden has the highest intake frequency of sausages, the type of bread eaten differed from the other countries and, furthermore, Sweden have a high proportion of physical active people (as Finland), Iceland have a frequent intake of fish, the highest proportion who use oil for cooking, the most frequent intake of sugar rich food and the highest proportion of overweight and obese. However, Icelanders spend less time in front of a computer compared with the other countries. Norwegians have, according to this survey, the highest intake of fruits and vegetables but also the highest consumption of full fat cheese and spend more time in front of a computer than participants from other countries.

  • The questionnaire used in children (7–12 year) and adults (18–65 year) are shown in the following pages.

  • The questions on bread intake asked how many slices of bread were normally eaten either per day or per week. Answers more than 15 slices per day were judged unrealistic and changed to missing. Other questions on frequency intake asked per month (<1 to 3 times), per week (1–6 times) or per day (1 to &ge;6 times). Results coded as values higher than these were judged to be a mistake and changed to missing.