One in six inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands are smokers, one in eight are heavy drinkers and over six in ten are overweight. Half of the population are getting sufficient exercise. Women smoke and drink much less than men, but are more likely to be obese and exercise less. These are some conclusions from the Health Study which was conducted in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2017.
In collaboration with the Public Health departments of the public entities Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) conducted a health monitoring survey in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2017. This Health Study Caribbean Netherlands was held to gain insight into the overall health status of the island population and into common infectious diseases, as well as to examine whether the population is well-protected against the infectious diseases against which they are vaccinated as part of the National Vaccination Programme. A total of 1,900 people participated in the study.
Few heavy smokers
Of the Caribbean Dutch population, 17 percent say they smoke. Only 2 percent are heavy smokers, i.e. with an average of 20 or more cigarettes per day. Women are much less likely to smoke than men. Smoking behaviour varies per island. On Saba, 24 percent of the population are smokers, versus 17 percent on Bonaire and 13 percent on St Eustatius. On all three islands, the number of heavy smokers is relatively small.
In the Caribbean Netherlands, 11 percent of the non-smoking residents are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke indoors for at least one hour per day. On Bonaire, this is 12 percent; on St Eustatius 3 percent and on Saba 11 percent. This includes children. On Bonaire, for example, 9 percent of 0 to 11-year-olds smoke passively for at least one hour per day; of the non-smoking 12 to 15-year-olds, this share is 14 percent. On St Eustatius and Saba, fewer children seem to be exposed to other people’s smoke.
Share of heavy drinkers much smaller among women
One in eight residents of the Caribbean Netherlands are heavy drinkers: 8 percent of women versus 17 percent of men. Women on all three islands drink less alcohol than men.
St Eustatius has the lowest share of heavy drinkers at 8 percent. On Saba and Bonaire, the shares amount to 16 and 12 percent respectively.
Men exercise more
Half of the population (49 percent) of the Caribbean Netherlands meet the Dutch Physical Activity Guidelines (NNGB). The share meeting this standard is higher among men (59 percent) than among women (38 percent). Women on Saba turn out to be physically much more active than those on Bonaire and St Eustatius. 58 percent of the female population on Saba meet the activity standard, as against 38 percent of woman on Bonaire women and 32 percent of women on Statia.
Nearly half of all women on Statia are obese
More than six in ten residents of the Caribbean Netherlands are overweight, of whom half are obese. Women and men are equally likely to be overweight, but obesity is relatively more common among women: 36 percent, as against 26 percent of men. St Eustatius has the highest share of obese women, namely 46 percent.
Higher obesity rates in the Caribbean Netherlands
Due to methodological differences, the above results cannot be compared one-on-one with the figures for the European Netherlands. However, it can be concluded that there are relatively fewer active smokers in the Caribbean Netherlands. Conversely, non-smokers are significantly more likely to inhale other people’s smoke compared to the European Netherlands (this share is even 4 times higher in children). Furthermore, there are many more obese people in the Caribbean Netherlands, with the obesity rate at least twice as high.
StatLine – Leefstijl en (preventief) gezondheidsonderzoek Europees Nederland
Health Study Caribbean Netherlands
These are the first results taken from the Health Study Caribbean Netherlands. For this news release, they have been focused on lifestyle. The first results of the study on the degree of protection against infectious diseases will become available later this year. The Health Study Caribbean Netherlands is to be used in the preparation of public health reports for each island and provides an important basis for the local authorities in shaping public health policies on the islands. The information about unhealthy behaviour is important because such behaviour may lead to diseases such as diabetes, various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disorders.
A heavy drinker is defined as someone who drinks 6 or more alcohol units in one day at least once weekly (for men); or at least 4 or more alcohol units in one day at least once weekly (for women).
Dutch Standard for Healthy Physical Activity (NNGB)
The Dutch standard indicates the minimum physical activity needed for maintaining and improving one’s health. To meet the standard, children aged 4 to 11 years are required to exercise at moderate intensity for a minimum of 60 minutes per day and 7 days per week. Young people aged 12 to 17 years are required to exercise at moderate intensity for a minimum of 60 minutes per day, e.g. cycling. Persons over 18 years are required to exercise at moderate intensity for a minimum of 30 minutes per day on at least 5 days per week. The definition of ‘moderate intensity’ is stricter for persons aged 18 to 54 years than for older people. For example, they are required to walk at a pace of 5 km per hour; leisurely walking suffices for the over-55s (4 km per hour). In 2017, the Health Council of the Netherlands drafted new physical activity guidelines.
The most widely used measure for overweight is the body mass index (BMI), defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres. Adults with a BMI of 25 or higher are overweight; a BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity. For children, these margins are age-related and the degree of overweight is calculated from the age of 2 years.