Background Chronic conditions affect people all over the world; over 100 million citizens or 40% of the population in Europe above the age of 15 is reported to have a chronic disease . One of the main tasks of patient organisations is to raise awareness of them. So far, there have not been any studies conducted in Estonia that would show how successful they have been in raising awareness in the general population and among the youth in Estonia.
Objectives The objective of the study was to find out how aware are 15–35 years old Estonians of chronic diseases, and furthermore, through which channels they first learned about the diseases.
Methods The study focused on the five most prevalent disease groups, out of which were selected specific diagnoses: juvenile idiopathic arthritis, diabetes mellitus, asthma, depression and chronic hypertension. The criteria for choosing the diagnoses were the following: diagnoses that have the most effect on young people are most prevalent or have the highest incidence rate. The data was collected via an online survey, which was spread on different social networks and among the pupils of two secondary schools.
Results In total there were 191 responses from which 172 answers could be used. The average age of the respondents is 20 years. Most of them have heard about asthma (89.5%), diabetes mellitus (89.0%), chronic hypertension (78.0%) and depression (90.1%), but only 29.3% has heard about juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Most of the people, who answered, say that they first heard about the diseases from their family, friends or their acquaintances, 14.5% from television or radio and 13.4% from social media.
Conclusions Although rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) are one of the most common chronic conditions in Europe, from the results of the study it can be concluded that very few people in Estonia are aware of them. Since RMDs are not directly life-threatening like asthma or diabetes, it could be suggested that patients do not want to disclose their diagnosis to their acquaintances in fear of social stigma and discrimination. However, since this was a quantitative study, it is not possible to point out direct reasons and further qualitative research is needed. Additionally, from the results it can be concluded that the organisations for patients with RMDs should contribute more into raising awareness using the mediums of television, radio, and the internet.
European Union Health Policy Forum: Answer to DG SANCO consultation on chronic diseases. (2012).
Acknowledgement The author would like to thank the following people: Ülle Kullamaa, Birgit Teemäe, Anna Edela, Eva Maria Stina Peek, Toomas Jürgenstein and Triin Ulst.
Disclosure of Interest None declared