The CHARM study (Care, Health and Ageing of Russian Speaking Minority in Finland) focuses on Russian-speaking individuals aged 50 years and older living in Finland. The study explores their identity, health, financial situation, social relationships, digital participation, and interactions with public services. This report examines follow-up data from the study to assess changes in the living conditions of older Russian-speaking individuals between 2019 and 2022.
The follow-up data were collected through a postal survey in the autumn of 2022. The address information of the respondents (n=1082), who had participated in the first wave, was updated from the population register in October. After excluding 38 respondents (3.5%) who had passed away and 6 who had moved abroad, there were 1038 respondents, of whom 724 returned the questionnaire, resulting in a response rate of 69.8%. Assuming a similar overcoverage rate for the second round, the estimated response rate was 25% (724/0.035*3000). The survey responses have been weighted to represent the target population of Russian-speaking individuals over the age of 50 living in Finland.
Forty-six percent of the respondents were women. The average age of the respondents in 2022 was 66 years. Among those who had migrated to Finland, the average age at the time of migration was 46 years, and their average length of stay in Finland was 20 years. Most respondents lived in the South Finland and Uusimaa regions. Proficiency in Finnish or Swedish was higher among working-age women, while over 64-year-old men had the lowest proficiency. Approximately 20% of working-age respondents were unemployed. 57% of women and 83% of men were married, with 46% of married women having a spouse born in Finland, compared to only 4% of men. Of those who were over 64, over half of women and 19% of men lived alone.
In terms of health, around half of working-age women and men reported fairly good or good health. Among respondents over 64, about 62% reported average health, while slightly over 23% reported fairly good or good health. However, approximately 12% of working-age individuals and 15% of those over 64 years old reported having at least one long-term illness that limited their daily activities. Women reported depressive symptoms more frequently, with nearly a third of working-age women and 36% of women over 64 showing signs of clinical depression. The corresponding per-centages for men were 27% and 20%.
Alcohol consumption varied, with about 21% of men and 27% of women reporting no alcohol intake. A small percentage of men (6%) reported drinking at least six alcoholic drinks at once more than once a month, while no women reported the same. Regular smoking was reported by almost a fifth of working-age men and 10% of women, with higher rates among men over 64 (15%) and lower rates among women in the same age group (6%). Men had lower levels of physical activity and poorer dietary habits compared to women. Access to health services appeared to be more deprived for women, with a significant number of Russian speakers over 50 visiting doctors abroad, particularly in Russia and Estonia.
Financial difficulties were prevalent, with 67% of respondents finding it challenging to make ends meet, especially men and individuals over 64. A very high proportion of the respondents had received social assistance, housing support, and food aid during the last year, especially those who were over the age of 64.
While Russian speakers over 50 generally expressed satisfaction with their social relationships, around 30% were socially isolated, indicating they had fewer than two close connections. Most respondents did not have any close Finland-born friends. Feelings of loneliness were reported by 50% of women and 43% of men to varying degrees. Discrimination or inappropriate treatment was experienced by less than 5% of respondents often or quite often, with weaker language skills, accents, or migrant status being the most common reasons cited.
The study also explored the sense of belonging to different groups. Strong feelings of togetherness were reported with Russians, while a high percentage felt at least some sense of togetherness with Finnish people. A lower sense of belonging was observed towards other migrants and Ingrian Finns. Most respondents had visited their country of birth at least once in the past year, with working-age individuals traveling more frequently.
Almost all working-age respondents and 88% of those over 64 owned a smartphone. Only a small percentage did not have access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet, these were mostly in the over 64 age group. 89% of working-age individuals and 72% of those over 64 had an electronic ID. Daily internet use was high among working-age people (96%), while 9% of those over 64 reported not using the internet at all, with the same age group citing more frequent difficulties in internet use.