Sweden’s national obesity rate is two percent lower than that of Sweden’s smaller communities. This means that large metropolises like Stockholm have thinner residents on average than rural Sweden. A number of factors contribute to this metro-rural obesity disparity, which can be observed not just in Sweden but in many other countries. Contrary to the stereotype, cityfolk can be more active than countryfolk – and Stockholm is one of the most active cities in the world.
Since rural residents live far from one another and from places of business, they rely much more on private transportation than city slickers, who find it easier and more economic to walk when they commute. As a result, they walk more steps per day than people from other nations. So not only do Stockholmers walk more than their country brethren, they bike and run and hike and kayak and ski and engage in enough activity for experts to have ranked their home city the eighth most active major metropolis in the world. According to the fitness tracking app Human, Stockholmers spend nearly 60 percent of their active lives exercising.
Being a city that spans 14 islands on Lake Malaren and the Baltic Sea, and whose metropolitan area contains 300 nature reserves and two national parks, Stockholm’s natural beauty claims a big portion of its identity – and removes a big portion of its residents’ fat. A path through green and glistening vegetation on the edge of a crystal-clear lake that is soundless except for birds and ripples beats a treadmill any day of the week. You don’t have to walk far in Stockholm to get this experience.
Wealth and Accessibility
Another contributing factor for obesity is low income. Impoverished people are less likely to splurge on healthy food, exercise equipment, and dietary aides. Stockholm, while not affluent by some countries’ standards, is affluent by Sweden’s standard. Mean per capita income in Stockholm is marginally higher than the national average. Stockholmers don’t just have more money than myriad Swedes, but they live in a city that provides amenities that outsiders cannot easily access. These include state of the art gyms, health food stores, and medical clinics.
Living in a big city with lots of outdoor space and amenities makes Stockholmers a bit slimmer than people from other parts of Sweden. The obesity difference between Swedes in large metropolises versus small cities and towns is not huge though; so the gap could close quickly.