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Thursday's papers: Life expectancy gap, summer travel, EU pressure

Lifestyle and access to healthcare may be factors in the wide gap in income-related life expectancy, writes Helsingin Sanomat.

Matkalaukkuja Hotellin aulassa
Pressure is growing to ease international travel. Image: Jaani Lampinen / YLE

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, points to statistics showing that a university-educated male engineer living in Espoo is likely to live 12 years longer than a low-income man living in Kajaani in the northeastern Kainuu region.

Overall, that gap is nine years. Nationally, higher-income men have a life expectancy of 82 years. Low-income men are likely to die nearly a decade earlier, at about age 73.

HS writes that health inequalities among men in Finland are among the highest in Western Europe, although income inequalities are small by international standards, and it asks how this is possible.

Alcohol, circulatory diseases, accidents, or suicide are more likely to cause the early deaths for men in lower income groups. For women, on the other hand, income levels, education and occupation are less significantly related to mortality. The difference in life expectancy between women in the highest and lowest income groups is five years.

The reason has been suggested that low-income women eat healthier, exercise more, drink less alcohol, and are more likely to see a doctor than low-income men.

Sakari Karvonen, a research professor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) told Helsingin Sanomat that one explanation for the wide variation in male life expectancy may be found in the healthcare system. Some men, he notes have access to employer-financed care, while others are reliant on public healthcare services, which may be more difficult to access and where the queues to see a doctor are longer.

Another explanation for the differences in men's life expectancy can be found in living conditions, the environment in which they work and spend their free time. Lower-income individuals are more likely to work in occupations where they are more prone to accidents or occupational diseases.

The third, and probably the most significant reason for health inequalities among men is lifestyle - whether they exercise, smoke, drink heavily, eat a healthy diet or not. Studies show, writes Helsingin Sanomat, that men in the lowest income groups eat fewer vegetables, exercise less, and smoke more.

Summer travel prospects

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat says that anyone who has spent much time in the countryside knows what when the cows that have been shut up in the barn all winter are finally let out – there's a huge rush out the doors and some may hurt themselves, "But, oh the joy when the stale cowshed is exchanged for the fresh open pastures."

Because of the coronavirus pandemic ,not only the Finns and other western Europeans, but also our Russian neighbours now have such a yearning for the outside world, writes Ilta-Sanomat.

It notes that pressure on the authorities, politicians and travel operators is growing. If the European Union's plans materialise, a so-called 'digital green certificate', the EU's common document to facilitate travel within the bloc, will be in place by July or the beginning of August at the latest.

In late May, a national vaccination certificate will be introduced in Finland. According to a press release from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland's own certificate should make it easier to travel to EU countries that accept national certificates before a common vaccination certificate enters into force.

Finnair will start accepting vaccine certificates from passengers arriving in Finland from 11 May.

However, Ilta-Sanomat points out that tourism from Russia is still a big question mark, as the country's infection figures and vaccine coverage are much worse than here, at least for the time being. In addition, the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency are still evaluating the Sputnik V vaccine, so the certificate for Sputnik V is not yet generally accepted as valid.

According to this paper, there is still a lot of pressure to open the Russian border both in Finland and within Russia. The first big challenge will be the men's football UEFA European Championships in St. Petersburg in mid-June. Will Finnish fans be allowed to travel across the border and under what conditions?

Ilta-Sanomat argues that facilitating tourism to Russia should not be impossible if border crossings can be made open to persons who can prove vaccination with an approved vaccine, recovery from Covid or a recent negative test result. As long as Europe and Russia do not have a common understanding of approved vaccinations, the paper speculates that even people who have been vaccinated may still need to produce a negative test result.

EU pressure

Iltalehti reports that neither Prime Minister Sanna Marin or officials from Prime Minister's Office will confirm or deny whether an EU official warned Finland of serious political consequences if the EU's 750-billion-euro stimulus package is not approved by the Finnish Parliament.

In late April, Yle reported that an EU official had warned Finland of “unprecedented damage to its reputation” if Finland does not accept the EU stimulus package. The Constitutional Affairs Committee considered the issue on 27 April, ruling that passage will require a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

According to Iltalehti, the leak of that conversation seems to have been an attempt to influence debate in the committee.

Both Marin's State Secretary for EU Affairs Jari Luoto and the Head of the EU Affairs Department of the Prime Minister's Office Kare Halonen did, however, confirm to Iltalehti that an official of the Legal Service of the Council of the European Union told the Prime Minister's Office that the EU does not have a "plan B" if Finland does not accept the stimulus package.

According to unconfirmed information received by Iltalehti from various official sources, Halonen had a discussion on the issue with Alberto de Gregorio, Director at the Legal Service of the Council of the European Union. Neither Halonen nor de Gregorio has denied or confirmed that they had the reported conversation.

After the snows

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen tells readers that although Finland will continue to see snow, sleet and rain for at least the end of this week, it will soon be followed by summer temperatures.

According to the current forecast, by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, temperatures of about 10C to 15C degrees are expected in southern and western parts of the country next week, possibly up to 20C. Some eastern areas may also record some 20C weather next week.

As the weather warms up again, spring may even be in the air in the far north, says FMI meteorologist Juha Sihvonen.

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