7.1 General context
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This section gives the context for recent trends in the health condition of young people in Cyprus, as given from national and international research data:
According to the 2019 European Health Survey (Ευρωπαϊκή Έρευνα Υγείας 2019) that was conducted by the Statistical Service of Cyprus for the period September to December 2019, the personal perception of the Cypriot citizens regarding their state of health is very good. More specifically, 97 % of the males and 96.90 % of the female population between 15-34 years old stated that their state of health is very good or good. In addition, 16.20 % of the respondents aged 15-24 and 22.20 % aged 25-34 report suffering from a long-term health problem or condition.
Alcohol consumption: Based on the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD 2019), a decreasing trend has been observed between 2015 and 2019 in Cyprus in regards to heavy episodic drinking, with a substantial reduction of 14 percentage points. However, prevalence rates of lifetime use as well as alcohol use during the 30 days prior to the survey were respectively 4 and 10 percentage points above average, with an increasing estimate among young boys.
Drugs addiction: According to the Country Drug Report 2019 for Cyprus, released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs addiction, cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug among the general population in Cyprus, with approximately 1 in 10 adults aged 15-64 years reporting cannabis use at least once during their lifetime. Cannabis use remains concentrated among young adults aged 15-34 years. The long-term analysis indicates a decrease in last year prevalence of cannabis use among this group from 2009, with possible stabilisation in the most recent years. Use of other illicit substances is less common.
A strong link between gender and illicit drug use is reported, with prevalence rates for all drugs being higher among males. The mean age at cannabis experimentation is 18-20 years. Use of new psychoactive substances is also concentrated among 15 to 34-year-olds, with synthetic cannabinoids being the most frequent substances reported.
Similar findings were reported in the ESPAD 2019 where noticeable gender differences were reported, that is 17 % of boys versus 7 % of girls used illicit drugs at least once during their lifetime. The most marked gender differences were also reported for the use of methamphetamine (5.20 % for boys and 0.40 % for girls), cocaine (6.30 % for boys versus 1.80 % for girls) and heroin (5.60 % for boys versus 0.30 % for girls). In addition, the study mentions that 3.60 % of the students in Cyprus (from the government-controlled areas) reported having used cannabis for the first time at age 13 or younger, a percentage which is among the highest ones in the participating countries of the survey.
Tobacco smoking: The 2019 European Health Survey reports that there is a slight improvement in the smoking habit in the Cypriot population (from the government-controlled areas), since the percentage of the population aged 15 and over who declare that they do not smoke at all has been increased from 70.90 % in 2014 to 74.50 % in 2019. In addition, the highest percentage of people who smoke on a daily basis (30.70 %) is observed for the ages 25-34.
In addition, based on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Report on the “Cyprus: Country Health Profile 2021”, tobacco consumption remains a major public health concern in Cyprus. More than one fifth (23 %) of Cypriot adults reported that they smoked daily in 2019, a proportion higher than the EU average of 20 %. This is mainly due to high smoking rates among men (33 %) compared to 14 % of women. However, the proportion of 15-yearolds who reported smoking cigarettes was lower than in most EU countries in 2019, but e-cigarettes have become more popular. One in ten 15-yearolds in Cyprus reported smoking e-cigarettes in 2019, although this proportion was also slightly lower than the EU average.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use 2000-2025, fourth edition (2020) estimates that in 2020 in Cyprus there have been 344 000 smokers (one fourth being female and three fourths being male). Moreover, the current tobacco use prevalence trends among people aged 15 years and older indicates a decreasing rate of smokers in the overall population (41.50 % in 2000, 39.50 % in 2005, 37.40 % in 2010, 35.80 % in 2015, 34.20 % in 2020 and 32.90 % in 2025)
Sexual Abuse: Based on a publication entitled Situation Analysis: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of Adolescents in Cyprus released by the Cyprus Family Planning Association in 2015, on date rape cases among young women in tertiary education in Cyprus aged 18-24 years old, data reveals that although the attempts of date rape (1.30 %) and date rape cases (1.90 %) seem to be small in number, 12.20 % of women who answered the questionnaire claimed to have had an ‘unwanted sexual experience’. On this number, the majority claimed to have given in to sexual acts due to overwhelming pressure by their partners and fear of their partners leaving them if they did not consent.
In addition to that, as indicated in the National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography2016-2019, in the context of carrying out the campaign "One in Five" in Cyprus, the University of Cyprus embarked on a scientific survey to record the Cypriot reality. This research showed that the picture in Cyprus is the same or even worse than the rest of the world, as in our country the rate of sexual abuse or exploitation of children is closer to one in four.
Obesity: Based on the results of the 2019 European Health Survey, 47.70 % of the population aged 15 and over in Cyprus has a normal body mass index (BMI), compared to 3.90 % of people who are underweight, 33.80 % who is overweight and 14.60 % who is extremely overweight. Compared to the results of the 2014 survey, it appears that the body mass index of the population aged 15 and over is at worse levels in 2019, as the percentages of the population who are obese and overweight have been increased while the percentage of people with a normal BMI has been decreased.
In addition, only 16.3% of the population aged 15 and over stated that they exercise 1-3 times a week for sports, health, or leisure purposes, while 18.9% stated that they exercise 4 or more times a week. As far as healthy eating is concerned, 58.0 % and 44.70 % of the population reported eating fruits and vegetables respectively, at least once a day.
When it comes to childhood obesity, the report “State of Health in the EU – Cyprus - Country Health Profile 2019” illustrates very high overweight and obesity levels among Cypriot children, with data showing that among six- to nine-year-olds about 20 % of children were obese in 2015-2017, and 43 % were obese or overweight.
Similarly, the latest data (2015–2017) from the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) show that southern European countries have the highest rate of child obesity. In Cyprus, 1 in 5 children aged 6-9 years old (ranging from 18 % to 21 %) are obese.
The main concepts which are used in the Cypriot context to promote distinctive understandings on the topic of Health and Well-being are aligned primarily with the definitions given by the World Health Organization (WHO) agenda as well as the national legislation in Cyprus.
Health: is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Mental health: is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Prevention of diseases: Prevention of diseases does not only cover measures aiming to prevent the emerging of diseases such as mitigating the risk factors, but also measures to stop the progress of a disease and to reduce its results once it occurs.
Public health: Public health is the science and art of promoting and improving health, preventing diseases, and extending life through the organized efforts of governmental action.
Mental disorder: behavioural disorder that is caused by a mental disease, that is incompatible with the place, time and age of the person it is affecting (Psychiatric Care Law Num.77(i) of 1997 - Ο Περί Ψυχιατρικής Νοσηλείας Νόμος του 1997 (77(I)/1997)).
Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional and mental wellbeing related to sexuality, not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or disability.
Sexual rights: The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitute sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people's rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination.
Reproductive health: is a state of complete physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system, its functions and operations and not just the absence of disease, dysfunction or disability.