There are many disparities in health between Arctic countries and regions, between indigenous and non-indigenous populations and between rural and urban areas, but the general view is grim.
Thursday morning panel on Well-being among Young People in the Arctic began with a set of sobering health statistics. In the north, life expectancy is lower, infant mortality and the rates of infections are higher than in the south. Arja Rautio, Professor of Arctic Research at the University of Oulu noted that one explanation to the worrying figures might lie in the enormous changes that are taking place in the living environment and the society.
Researcher Anna Reetta Rönkä of the University of Oulu said that loneliness, the subject of her research, is also an important health issue.
Yury Sumarokov of the Northern State Medical University in Arkhangelsk, Russia presented another set of statistics showing that the suicide rates among the youth in the North are alarmingly high, especially among the indigenous peoples. The Nenets are suicide world champions.
Problems of indigenous young people are something that Kyla Kakfwi Scott, Senior Advisor at Government of the Northwest Territories knows all too well.
“Urbanisation affects the indigenous youth. It is difficult to connect to the language and culture if you have to live far away from your land.”
Lydia Heikkilä, researcher at the University of Lapland has researched access to social and health service in the Sámi homeland. She noted it is important to provide health services in indigenous languages. She also reminded the panellists that there are many advantages to living in the Arctic.
“We present a very gloomy picture, but in fact life satisfaction is higher in the North. That is a strong fact that we should remember.”
Photo: Marko Junttila/Arctic Centre