New survey: Chronic diseases strike unevenly across social classes

​A major survey has revealed that unemployed citizens in the capital region with a short-cycle education are more likely to have chronic diseases such as diabetes, COPD, arthritis and anxiety disorder.


​This social disparity has grown for many chronic diseases. Approximately twice as many young women were diagnosed with anxiety disorder in 2021 compared with 2013. Almost one in three have chronic pain. Fewer have depression, although almost twice as many women have depression as men.

The Capital Region of Denmark has examined developments in the occurrence of chronic diseases in adult Danes living in the capital region. The study is part of the large national Sundhedsprofilen (health profile) survey, which has been published every four years since 2010.​

People with just primary and lower secondary education are more likely to have a chronic disease. The occurrence of diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (SOPD), arthritis, osteoporosis and anxiety disorder is three- to four-times higher than for people with long-cycle higher education.

"Chronic disease is a huge burden in life for many people, and unfortunately the survey shows that an increasing number of people are living with a chronic disease, and there is a significant social disparity. It’s very hard for an individual, especially if they are already struggling with social challenges. And it results in major costs for an already hard-pressed health service. The survey clearly shows that we still have a lot of work ahead of us to deal with and prevent chronic disease,” said the Chair of the Regional Council, Lars Gaardhøj (S).

The results of the survey can be used by the region, general practitioners and municipalities in future work on prevention, rehabilitation and treatment.

Extract of results

Approximately twice as many young women were diagnosed with anxiety disorder

  • This year, Sundhedsprofilen focussed in particular on chronic mental illness. Approximately twice as many young women between 16 and 24 were diagnosed with anxiety disorder - from 0.7% in 2013 to 1.3% in 2021. Furthermore, 27,000 women themselves reported that they have anxiety; 29% of all the age group.

Twice as many women as men have depression.

  • Almost twice as many women (8%) as men (4.7%) have depression. Overall, however, there was a fall from 8.1% in 2013 to 6.4% in 2021. 13% reported themselves that they have depression.

457,500 citizens are living with chronic pain

  • A new element in the Sundhedsprofilen survey in 2021 was to ask about numbers living with chronic pain. 32%, or 457,500 people, reported they had chronic pain. 17%, or 236,000, experience a migraine or frequent headache, especially women.

10% of people with short-cycle education have diabetes

  • In 2021, more than one in ten citizens (10.4%) with just a primary and lower secondary education qualification had diabetes.

  • The occurrence of diabetes in the region as a whole increased from 4.2% in 2010 to 5.3% in 2021.

  • There is a social disparity with diabetes, and it seems to be growing. The occurrence of diabetes increased from 8.8% in 2013 to 10.4% in 2021 for citizens with just primary and lower secondary education, while the occurrence of diabetes for people with higher education was 2.3% in both years.

Facts about Sundhedsprofilen chronic diseases
  • ​Sundhedsprofilen is conducted by the Center for Clinical Research and Prevention under the Capital Region of Denmark.

  • The survey is based on register studies and questionnaires sent to 56,245 citizens.

  • The results of the survey are shown in aggregate for the Capital Region of Denmark and divided into health clusters, municipalities and urban districts in Copenhagen.

  • The report comprises 18 chronic diseases and describes the numbers of people living with the disease concerned, the numbers of newly diagnosed and the trends.

  • The survey covers both somatic diseases and mental illness.

Further information

  • Public Relations Unit in the Capital Region of Denmark, tel.: +45 7020 9588

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