6 in 10 Caribbean Dutch are overweight

© Cees Timmers
One in six inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands are smokers, one in eight are heavy drinkers and over six in ten are overweight. Half of the population are getting sufficient exercise. Women smoke and drink much less than men, but are more likely to be obese and exercise less. These are some conclusions from the Health Study which was conducted in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2017.

In collaboration with the Public Health departments of the public entities Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) conducted a health monitoring survey in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2017. This Health Study Caribbean Netherlands was held to gain insight into the overall health status of the island population and into common infectious diseases, as well as to examine whether the population is well-protected against the infectious diseases against which they are vaccinated as part of the National Vaccination Programme. A total of 1,900 people participated in the study.

Few heavy smokers

Of the Caribbean Dutch population, 17 percent say they smoke. Only 2 percent are heavy smokers, i.e. with an average of 20 or more cigarettes per day. Women are much less likely to smoke than men. Smoking behaviour varies per island. On Saba, 24 percent of the population are smokers, versus 17 percent on Bonaire and 13 percent on St Eustatius. On all three islands, the number of heavy smokers is relatively small.

In the Caribbean Netherlands, 11 percent of the non-smoking residents are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke indoors for at least one hour per day. On Bonaire, this is 12 percent; on St Eustatius 3 percent and on Saba 11 percent. This includes children. On Bonaire, for example, 9 percent of 0 to 11-year-olds smoke passively for at least one hour per day; of the non-smoking 12 to 15-year-olds, this share is 14 percent. On St Eustatius and Saba, fewer children seem to be exposed to other people’s smoke.

Smokers in the Caribbean Netherlands, 2017
   heavy smoker (% of population aged 12 yrs or older)smokes daily, not a heavy smoker (% of population aged 12 yrs or older)smokes, but not daily (% of population aged 12 yrs or older)
Total Caribbean NetherlandsMale3.712.36.5
Total Caribbean NetherlandsFemale0.95.35.4
Total Caribbean Netherlands
St EustatiusMale0.59.59.2
St EustatiusFemale0.414
Source: CBS, RIVM

Share of heavy drinkers much smaller among women

One in eight residents of the Caribbean Netherlands are heavy drinkers: 8 percent of women versus 17 percent of men. Women on all three islands drink less alcohol than men.
St Eustatius has the lowest share of heavy drinkers at 8 percent. On Saba and Bonaire, the shares amount to 16 and 12 percent respectively.

Heavy drinkers in the Caribbean Netherlands, 2017
 Men (% of population aged 12 yrs or older)Women (% of population aged 12 yrs or older)
Total Caribbean Netherlands16.57.6
St Eustatius10.15.9

Men exercise more

Half of the population (49 percent) of the Caribbean Netherlands meet the Dutch Physical Activity Guidelines (NNGB). The share meeting this standard is higher among men (59 percent) than among women (38 percent). Women on Saba turn out to be physically much more active than those on Bonaire and St Eustatius: 58 percent of the female population on Saba meet the activity standard, as against 38 percent of women on Bonaire and 32 percent of women on Statia.

Meets the physical activity standard, 2017
 Men (% of population aged 4 yrs or older)Women (% of population aged 4 yrs or older)
Total Caribbean Netherlands59.437.5
St Eustatius58.531.6

Nearly half of all women on Statia are obese

More than six in ten residents of the Caribbean Netherlands are overweight, of whom half are obese. Women and men are equally likely to be overweight, but obesity is relatively more common among women: 36 percent, as against 26 percent of men. St Eustatius has the highest share of obese women, namely 46 percent.

Obesity rates in the Caribbean Netherlands, 2017
   Moderately overweight (% of population)Obese (% of population)
Total Caribbean NetherlandsMale33.925.5
Total Caribbean NetherlandsFemale29.335.6
Total Caribbean Netherlands
St EustatiusMale31.927.3
St EustatiusFemale30.645.6
Source: CBS, RIVM

Higher obesity rates in the Caribbean Netherlands

Due to methodological differences, the above results cannot be compared one-on-one with the figures for the European Netherlands. However, it can be concluded that there are relatively fewer active smokers in the Caribbean Netherlands. Conversely, non-smokers are significantly more likely to inhale other people’s smoke compared to the European Netherlands (this share is even 4 times higher in children). Furthermore, there are many more obese people in the Caribbean Netherlands, with the obesity rate at least twice as high.