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Young People (Don’t) Like Healthy Lifestyle

How young people feel about their well-being


University-age students in large cities show little concern for their health and do little to care for themselves. This is the finding of a survey conducted in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Perm.

The Range of Concerns

More than 400 university students and graduates in four cities responded to questions on how they perceive their own health. Respondents included only those who had lived in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg or Perm for eight years or more. The study’s author, Senior Lecturer Vera Fedotova of the Faculty of Economics, Management, and Business Informatics at the HSE campus in Perm, used two indices: ‘An attitude index to health and healthy lifestyle’ and ‘personal lifestyle’.

 The first measure used four scales: emotional, cognitive, practical and action-based. The sum of points on all four scales comprises the index of the respondent’s attitude towards health.

 The second approach measured how students improve their health. This is called ‘health-creating activity,’ or, more simply, healthy lifestyle. Respondents received high marks on this scale if they observed personal hygiene, maintained a proper diet, refrained from drinking and smoking, exercised regularly and rested well (got enough sleep, etc.).

It turned out that students devoted insufficient attention to their physical condition and that the information about health they did possess often remained of only theoretical value to them.

It’s Great to Be Alive – in Theory

The emotional scale measures a person’s sense of well-being. A high score indicates that the respondent takes pleasure in being healthy, is sensitive to their body’s needs and does not hold any negative stereotypes about healthy lifestyles.

Residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg scored highest on this scale, while those in Yekaterinburg and Perm were less emotionally committed to maintaining their health, seeing it only as a basic need. Neither were they particularly sensitive to signals their body was sending them.

The cognitive scale measures interest in healthy lifestyles. The study looked at two indicators: a willingness to receive information about healthy lifestyles and a desire to increase one’s awareness in this area.

On this scale, the students in Yekaterinburg and Perm rated highest. The respondents were interested in the subject of health and actively sought out information about it from a wide variety of sources.

By contrast, Moscow and St. Petersburg scored much lower in this area. This corresponds to the results of other studies, one of which found that young Muscovites possess only haphazard knowledge about health and make little use of it in their daily lives.

Toughen up!

The practical scale is essentially a measure of healthy habits such as frequenting a gym or fitness center, taking walks, eating a well-balanced diet and taking steps to prevent illness.

On this scale, Muscovites came out ahead, students in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg were average, and those in Perm were the least advanced.

And finally, the action-based scale measured respondents’ readiness to influence their environment by, for example, convincing loved ones to lead a healthy lifestyle and teaching them to take care of their bodies.

High marks here indicate the desire to create a healthy personal environment. Students in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg had the best scores, while those in Moscow and Perm scored significantly lower.

The overall picture of how students take care of their health was not particularly positive.

Russian youth have a low index of attitudes towards health. These figures were somewhat higher for respondents in Moscow (39.4) and St. Petersburg (38.6), a bit lower for those in Yekaterinburg (37.6), and lower still in Perm (33.9). Higher scores on the emotional and social scales, however, helped offset those results to some extent.

Common Sense

The results of the lifestyle study—that looked at the ability to resist social factors leading to unhealthy actions—were not very comforting.

Students in St. Petersburg had the highest score for ‘healthy living’ (38.5%) and those in Moscow scored only 35.5%, whereas the average score for this indicator is 48%.

There was an even greater contrast in the figures for students in Perm, 58% of whom had an average score on the practical scale, and only 26.7% of whom had high scores. The situation was similar with students in Yekaterinburg.

All respondents said they considered personal hygiene, emotional balance and involvement in a sport or home workout to be the most important means for maintaining health. They rarely got enough sleep, built up their resistance or took other preventative measures to ward off illness.

It is interesting to see to what extent different generations of Russians shared these attitudes. An extended study by the author revealed that members of Generation X (who were born between the second half of the 1960s and the first half of the 1980s) also only rarely get enough sleep or build up their strength. Most consider personal hygiene, visiting the doctor as a preventative measure, a sensible diet and spending time in nature as the best means for maintaining their health.

Of all the generations, millennials are the least likely to engage in habits that are destructive to health such as smoking and drinking. In fact, they smoke and drink less—and with diminishing frequency—as they grow older.

Living Environment

Overall, the young Russian respondents were not very concerned about their health, showing more interest in the aesthetic than the substantive side of the question.

Students in Moscow and St. Petersburg took greater interest in their health, but the infrastructure supporting a healthy lifestyle—from fitness clubs to medical centers—is clearly more developed in the two capital cities, giving residents more opportunities to take care of their health.


Author of the study:
Vera Fedotova, Senior Lecturer of the Faculty of Economics, Management, and Business Informatics at the HSE campus in Perm
Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, June 10, 2019