Psychological stress and suicidal thoughts among working-age people have increased, while it is difficult to get a doctor’s appointment

Publication date 22 May 2023

The quality of life among working-age people has deteriorated dramatically in recent years. Only one in two working-age people feels that their quality of life is good, whereas four years ago, more than 60% of working-age people felt so. Quality of life refers to a person’s perception of their own situation, such as health, welfare, social relationships and living environment.

The data are shown in Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s extensive Healthy Finland population study, the survey data of which was collected between September 2022 and March 2023.  

According to the study, one in five working-age people (20 to 64-year-olds) experiences significant psychological stress. Psychological stress has greatly increased in both men and women compared to 2018: from 13% to 19% in men and from 13% to 20% in women. Psychological stress remains most common among people aged 20–29, but stress among those aged 30–49 has also increased.

“The results are worrying from the perspective of the social and economic sustainability of society. Although there have already been indications of a deteriorating trend in the welfare of working-age people, the crises in recent years have probably made the situation even more difficult. During the coming government term, the welfare of working-age people should be brought to the heart of decision-making, as an ageing Finnish society needs a healthy and functioning population,” says Principal Researcher Annamari Lundqvist.

Suicidal thoughts have become more common especially among people under 50

Suicidal thoughts have become more common among people under the age of 50. While one in ten people under the age of 50 reported suicidal thoughts in 2018, now one in eight of them did. 

“The implementation of the Programme for suicide prevention is now particularly important. The projects of the programme develop ways for anyone to be able to discuss concerns and what social welfare and health care professionals can do after identifying a risk of suicide. In addition, we encourage the preparation of a safety plan in case of suicidal thoughts and the utilisation of other methods of good care in health and social services more than at present,” says Research Professor Timo Partonen.

An increasing number of working-age people report having used health services due to mental health issues. Now, 20% of working-age women say that they have used mental health services, compared to 15% in 2018. Men use mental health services less, and their use of the services has increased from 9% to 12%.

Major regional differences in the sufficiency of medical services

According to the study, access to health services has also become more difficult. Almost one in four adults feels that they do not receive sufficient medical services to meet their needs. This means that there are more than 800,000 people in Finland who feel that medical services are insufficient. This share has increased by almost 10 percentage points for both men and women since 2018, from 14% to 23% for men and from 17% to 27% for women. The results indicate the situation before the health and social services reform.

The situation is the most difficult in North Karelia, Central Uusimaa and Kainuu, where more than 30% of people feel that they receive insufficient medical services to meet their needs.

“The new wellbeing services counties have a difficult starting point that they should be able to respond to. The poor development is likely to be affected by several factors, such as the COVID-19 care debt, the delay in the health and social services reform and the personnel shortage. In Finland, less money is also spent on health care than in Western Europe,” says Chief Specialist Anna-Mari Aalto

“There is no single solution to this complicated situation. The new wellbeing services counties will finally have the opportunity to start developing the service structure of the county and finding solutions for improving the availability of services,” Aalto continues.

61,600 randomly selected persons aged 20 or over from different parts of Finland were invited to the survey section of the Healthy Finland study. The sample has been formed so that the results can be generalised throughout Finland and by wellbeing services county. 46% of those invited to the survey responded to the survey between September 2022 and March 2023.

The data for 2018 and 2020 are based on the FinSote study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.


Preliminary statistics on the results of the Healthy Finland survey, website (in Finnish)

Preliminary results of the Healthy Finland 2022 survey. PowerPoint presentation (in Finnish) (PDF 589 KB)

Further information:

Annamari Lundqvist
Principal Researcher for the Healthy Finland study
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Tel. +358 29 524 7283
[email protected]

Timo Partonen
Research Professor
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Tel. +358 29 524 8859
[email protected]

Anna-Mari Aalto
Chief Specialist
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Tel. +358 29 524 7252
[email protected]

Healthy Finland Survey 

National FinSote Survey

Programme for Suicide Prevention

Väestön terveys- ja hyvinvointikatsaus 2023: tavoitteena sosiaalisesti kestävä Suomi (in Finnish)

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