What Mental Healthcare Options Are Available In Sweden?

Sweden has an excellent public health system that will look after all of your physical healthcare needs. It is open to all legal residents, regardless of the length of your stay, although it can take a long time for your residency claim to be processed.However, it is also important to look after your mental health, particularly during times of stress. Moving house scores highly on the list of universal stressors used by psychologists and therapists, and moving country adds a whole extra level of confusion and intensity to an already stressful time, particularly if you do not know anyone who lives here and you have not yet learned the local language.

So how can you look after your mental health when you move to Sweden? What options are available on the public health system? Will you need to take out private medical cover to ensure that you have access to the right levels of care? Keep reading to find out.

Mental Health In Sweden: An Overview

Sweden scores extremely highly on overall global healthcare measures, so it will perhaps come as a surprise that the level of mental healthcare here is less than stellar. Like many other countries, Sweden struggles to meet the mental health needs of its population and treatment of ‘mild to moderate’ mental health issues needs to improve, according to a report from the OECD.

Sweden's mental health care is not as good as it could be

Around a quarter of young people in Sweden have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Care for this subgroup has improved in recent years, following a strong focus on the issue between 2012 and 2016. Access to mental health care programmes within schools has had a positive overall effect on the number of people being diagnosed and the severity of their conditions, but there is still work that needs to be done in this area.

If you visit the doctor to discuss a physical illness in Sweden, then you can expect to be offered a high level of care and to be referred to the relevant specialist, and the majority of the fees payable will be covered by the state. However, the picture looks very different for mental illnesses, where only 15% of patients are currently receiving the treatments they require, according to the OECD report quoted above.

In addition, a lot of mental health treatment programmes, such as courses of cognitive behavioural therapy or ‘talking therapies’ such as psychoanalysis and counselling, are not covered at all by the state system, meaning that people have to pay out of pocket. This presents worrying barriers for those with mental health conditions, since often people find it difficult to work when they are suffering from a mental illness, and without being in employment they might find it impossible to pay the fees.

Some people feel let down by the Swedish mental health system

A 2019 study by the Public Health Agency in Sweden showed that expats suffer higher levels of mental illness than locals, and the levels increase for people who are female, unemployed, earning below a reasonable income threshold, disabled, or LGBTQIA+.

The only population in which there was no difference between locals and expats was schoolchildren, but this might be because the rate of mental illness among young people is high in any case.

The situation is not all bad, though. Recently more measures have been put in place to try to improve the level of mental health provisions across the country, with some particularly innovative options including the mental health ambulance in Stockholm, which was launched in 2015.

The ambulance service was brought into play in response to the country’s static suicide figures: over 1,500 people in Sweden die by suicide each year, and more than 15,000 attempt it. The ambulance crew consists of two mental health professionals and one paramedic, and they can provide a number of treatments on the spot to people who need them.

Help For Mental Health Conditions In Sweden

If you suffer with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor at home before you move to Sweden. Some substances are restricted in the country under the EU’s Opium Act, including certain antidepressants and some medications for ADHD. You will still be able to take restricted substances while living in Sweden, but you will need a letter from your doctor explaining what your prescription is, the generic name for it, and why you require it.

You might not be eligible for state-funded psychotherapy in Sweden

If you have been receiving regular state-subsidised therapy back home — for example, if you have been seeing a therapist on the NHS in the UK — then your doctor or therapist might be able to write you a letter explaining why you require subsidised treatment and recommending a course of action to your new doctor in Sweden.

However, you might find that you need to pay either a percentage of the therapy fees yourself, or in some cases you could be expected to pay 100% of the costs. Many people choose to pay privately for therapy, and it is easy to find a reputable therapist in Sweden since it is a regulated profession, so only those with a license can set up a practice.

The high standard for entry into the profession means that the therapist you see will probably be able to offer you a high standard of care. However, the amount of training required before someone can set up as a therapist means that there is a lower number of therapists throughout the country than you might expect to find back home. Some therapists offer online sessions for clients all around the world, so you might even be able to find a therapist from back home who you can talk to on a regular basis using a video call service such as Skype or Facetime.

Shopping around is an important part of the therapeutic process: numerous studies have shown that it is the relationship between therapist and client that makes the most difference to the outcome of the therapy. If you require urgent help for a mental health condition, you can call the Swedish health service on 1177 for advice, or visit Mind.se.

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How To Keep Fit And Healthy In Sweden

When you make any large change to your lifestyle and routine, it can be very difficult to keep up your prior good habits. If you are moving to a new country and trying to settle in and get your paperwork sorted out all at the same time, then things like healthy nutrition and fitness regimes can go out of the window while you expend time, energy and stress on filling in forms and trying to figure out where to send them.However, it is important to look after your physical and mental health, and arguably this is even more pertinent when you are going through a stressful situation such as moving country.

The public health service in Sweden will provide you with healthcare for any emergencies or ongoing medical problems, and you can take out private medical insurance to cover you until you have registered with the public system, but beyond maintaining a basic level of health it is important to set up good habits that you can keep up throughout your stay in Sweden.

Joining A Gym In Sweden

Sweden is one of the very few countries in the world where the majority of the population have a gym membership. This means that you can enjoy a high level of choice when you move to Sweden, and that you should be able to find a gym near where you live, although if you live in a rural area then you will probably have to travel a little further than you would in the city.

Most people in Sweden have a gym membership

If you are studying in Sweden, you will find that most gyms do discounts for students. Some, such as Fitness 24/7, will offer discounts on an already low rate, meaning that you might only need to pay in the region of 170 SEK per month to use the gym.

Naturally, these gyms have fewer bells and whistles than their more expensive counterparts, but you should still be able to find weights and cardio equipment, as well as general workout areas. Often these gyms will work on a card entry basis, and many will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you are looking for something a little more high-end, then you should be able to find a membership for about 400 SEK per month that includes things like a permanent locker, towels provided for members, and a wide range of activities and classes included with the membership. Some of these will be with large international gym companies, but there will also be local Swedish ones that might offer memberships at slightly lower prices.

There is a wide range of gyms to choose from, from basic to luxury

Sweden does not have a large number of swimming pools. There are only eighteen in the whole country, and not all of them are open all of the time. If you live in Malmø or Stockholm, you will have the highest level of choice, and there are even pools in these cities that run special sessions just for women, if you prefer a same-sex swimming session for religious, cultural or comfort reasons.

Outdoor Activities In Sweden

Despite the famously cold weather, there are a number of outdoor swimming clubs throughout the country. If you are not used to swimming outside in cold temperatures, then it is recommended that you begin in the summer and gradually work your way up to swimming in colder weather, since diving straight into swimming during the colder months can cause medical emergencies such as heart attacks or hypothermia.

It is also recommended that you wear a wetsuit, even if you have swum in cold countries before; each area’s climate will be different from the others you have swum in, and you don’t want your body to end up in shock. Joining a local outdoor swimming group can be a great way to ease yourself in — most are very amenable to new members and will be happy to help you to acclimatise.

There are a number of outdoor swimming groups in Sweden

Speaking of the cold, winter sports are extremely popular in Sweden too. Hockey, and the related local sport of bandy, are both very popular and you should be able to find a club near you.

If you are very adventurous, then you might want to head to the north of the country and take part in cross-country skiing or ice fishing (or indeed both). Ice fishing involves drilling a hole into the ice, inserting a fishing rod and then waiting for something to take the bait: a fine meditative way to relax after a long cross-country skiing session to get to your fishing spot!

There are a number of mountains and hill ranges where you can go rock climbing, bouldering and hiking; or, if you are feeling up to a bigger challenge, you can visit the Scandinavian mountain range in the north of the country and tackle Mount Kebnekaise. The tallest mountain is Sweden is over 2,000 metres high and the views from the summit are said to be breathtaking.

There are a number of adventurous outdoor options available

If you would prefer something more moderate, visit your local tourism office to see whether there are any recommended hiking trails near you. Even in the cities you will often find that you are just a short trip from the countryside, and taking a day off to go walking can be a great way to relax and unwind at the end of the working week.

It is important to make sure that you are prepared for all eventualities if you do partake in outdoor sports, though. The Swedish health service will provide treatment in emergencies regardless of whether or not you have signed up for public healthcare, but if you do not have insurance and your residency permit has not yet come through, then you could find yourself saddled with a huge medical bill once you have recovered.

Several of the private insurance companies that serve Sweden will include optional extras for things like medical evacuation and air ambulances in the mountains, so if you are planning to partake in mountain sports on a regular basis, it will be worth looking into this.

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Maternity Care In Sweden: What The Options Are And How To Decide On A Birth Plan

Healthcare in Sweden is of a high standard throughout the country, and maternity care is no exception. The public health system is open to all residents, and any medical care you need — including childbirth — will be heavily subsidised by the state.You can also choose to take out private health cover in Sweden, and it is prudent to do this while you are waiting for your residency permit to come through, since they can take a long time to be processed. If self-funded without any insurance, maternity care can be hugely expensive, sometimes inching over 100,000 SEK.

Assuming you are covered by the public health service or your private insurance, then, what maternity care can you expect?

Maternity Leave In Sweden

Sweden has one of the best parental leave policies in the world. You can take up to ten weeks of maternity leave while you are pregnant, and each parent is entitled to 240 days of parental leave after the child is born.

Unlike in many other countries, this parental leave can be stretched out long after the birth: you are still eligible to take days as parental leave until the child is eight years old. Parental leave is paid for by the state, at 80% of your usual salary. By law, you can also reduce your general working hours to 75% of your normal workload until your child is eight years old.

Sweden has one of the best parental leave provisions worldwide

If you are the one having the baby, and you are working in an industry that requires you to do a job that could potentially harm your baby during the pregnancy — such as a role that requires a lot of heavy lifting — then you are entitled to extra parental leave during your pregnancy. This is known as graviditetspenning and will be covered by the state at 80% of your normal pay cheque. Talk to your doctor to find out whether your job qualifies and how to claim your parental leave.

Pre-Natal Care In Sweden

You can only receive pre-natal care in Sweden through the public health service: you will not be able to pay for private care. Most checks are done by midwives, rather than doctors, and you might be able to arrange for the midwife who has seen you throughout your pregnancy to be there during the birth as well, although this will depend on staff availability.

If you think you might be pregnant, you can visit a pharmacy and purchase a pregnancy test over the counter. This will usually cost about 100 SEK. If the test is positive, and you want to go through with the pregnancy, then you will need to find a maternity clinic (mödravårdscentral) in your area. Details of your local mödravårdscentral can be found on your local council’s website.

Pre-natal care is not available privately in Sweden

Once the midwife has confirmed that you are definitely pregnant, they will provide you with a pregnancy certificate. You should then send this certificate to the social security agency, who will help you to arrange your parental benefits.

You will probably find that you undergo fewer tests during pregnancy in Sweden than you would elsewhere. Your midwife will do a couple of ultrasounds to check how your baby is getting along, and you will also be required to have some blood tests, but other than that you will be left to your own devices throughout the pregnancy. If the midwife finds any causes for concern, they will alert your doctor who will book you in for an appointment to see if any action needs to be taken.

Pre-natal classes are an option in Sweden, but they are not available through the public health service, so if you want to go to these then you will have to pay for them yourself. You can either pay for individual classes or take out a package: most packages will cover all the basics from breathing to breastfeeding, and a package will probably set you back around 4000 SEK.

Giving Birth In Sweden

You can rest assured that you will be in excellent hands if you choose to have a baby whilst living in Sweden. The country has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, and maternity wards are clean, well-equipped and comfortable.

Sweden offers an excellent standard of maternity care

You will be charged around 1000 SEK per night for your stay in hospital. Most people are discharged within a couple of days, unless there are additional complications during the birth. Depending on where you live, your local council might provide home birth options, too. You can find out whether this is the case by visiting your local council’s website.

Post-Natal Care In Sweden

After you have given birth, you will need to contact your local childcare centre (barnavårdscentralen) — again, details about this can be found on your local council’s website — and arrange an appointment with them. They will assign you a childcare nurse who will keep track of your child’s development until it reaches five years of age.

A childcare nurse will be assigned to keep track of your baby's development

Many people find it helpful to sign up with local groups and classes for parents, particularly if this is your first baby. Parenting groups can be a great way to make new friends and share tips and tricks relevant to the local area. Your childcare nurse might be able to point you in the direction of some good groups; otherwise, you can take a look online to see what is available.

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What Quality Of Healthcare Can You Expect In Sweden?

Sweden enjoys a high standard of healthcare for all residents, including expats. Unlike in many other countries, there are no restrictions on who is eligible for healthcare, except that you need to be resident in the country. You will be able to enjoy public healthcare regardless of your age, pre-existing medical conditions, employment status, or length of stay.You can also take out private healthcare in Sweden, and many expats choose to do this to cover the period of time before their residency permit arrives, since this can take well over a year to be processed.

There is little difference between the quality of care in the public and private sectors: private healthcare has only been available since 2010, and since just 10% of the population have private health insurance, most doctors who work in the private sector also work for the public health service.

There are reports of waiting times for non-urgent procedures being shorter if you go down the private route, but the level of care you can expect ot receive when you are seen by a medical practitioner will be the same.

Advantages Of The Swedish Health System

Sweden has an excellent reputation for all forms of healthcare, from maternity care right through to end-of-life care. It has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world — just 2.5 deaths per 1,000 births — and it also has an ageing population who enjoy excellent healthcare in their final years: almost 20% of the population are over 65.

Sweden particularly excels at maternity care

Care for the elderly is usually provided in their homes; 70% of elderly people living in Sweden are cared for in this way. Sweden spends 3.6% of its GDP on care for the elderly: more than twice the EU average of 1.7%.

Access to care is excellent, particularly in the cities, although Sweden’s rural population enjoy better access to medical care than they would in most other countries too. The majority of doctors — especially in the larger cities — will speak good English, and you are entitled to an interpreter if you cannot understand enough Swedish to comprehend what is happening during your appointment.

The healthcare infrastructure in Sweden is up to date, with modern machinery and excellent diagnostic testing tools. The level of information available about the healthcare you need and how and where to receive it is good as well: you can call 1177 any time of the day or night to find out whether you will need to visit a doctor urgently, go to the emergency room, or wait to book a non-urgent appointment. 1177 representatives will be able to speak English and sometimes other languages, or will be able to pass you on to someone who can. The 1177.se website also provides a useful repository of information in a range of different languages to help you navigate the healthcare system there.

Most people report being treated well by their doctors in Sweden

People have good things to say about their doctors’ attitudes, as well: a remarkable 90% of patients report having been treated well by health professionals. And the country is always looking to improve on its already excellent standards: Sweden has some of the most well-developed quality registers worldwide, which means the government is able to keep track of how people are rating the care they receive, and what could be done to improve care for all residents.

On average across the EU, rates of hospitalisation for chronic conditions are 45.8 per 100,000 people, according to the Swedish Healthcare website. In Sweden this number is much lower, at just 22.2 per 100,000 people, indicating that ongoing care for chronic conditions, as well as care to prevent chronic illnesses from getting worse, is much better in Sweden than almost anywhere else in the European Union.

Criticisms Of The Swedish Health System

Few people have anything negative to say about Sweden’s health system: a remarkable achievement. However, studies into healthcare here do pinpoint some challenges that will need to be addressed in the near future, before they become problems.

An aging population is a cause for concern in Sweden

An aging population is one of the main challenges to the health system. Currently, older people enjoy an excellent level of care, and the number of people who manage to receive treatment in their own homes is unusually high. As the average age of the population increases, however, this will put an added strain onto the health system.

Chronic illnesses are another cause for concern: Sweden has an excellent track record with caring for these conditions, but an increase in the number of senior citizens goes hand in hand with a rise in the number of people living with chronic illnesses, which means the health system will have to work hard to maintain its excellent reputation.

There is a level of disparity between the standard of care you can expect to receive in metropolitan areas compared to rural areas, and this is sometimes a cause for complaint for people who live far away from the major cities.

Standards of care are better in cities than in rural areas

However, in reality the gap between rural and metropolitan when it comes to access to services is much smaller than it is in most other countries around the world, so although there is still room for improvement, you will almost certainly find care in rural areas to be better in Sweden than in most of the other countries you have lived in.

For expats, the time they have to wait before being able to access the public health system can make things difficult and expensive in the interim. Sometimes, processing a residency application can take up to eighteen months, and in the meantime you will have to work out a way to pay for your own medical care.

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How To Keep Your Health Insurance Costs Low In Sweden

If you are moving to Sweden for more than three months, then you will be able to take advantage of their excellent public health system. However, in order to register for public healthcare you will need proof of residency and a personal ID number. Residency permits can take up to a year and a half to come through, although applying online can speed up the process slightly. In the meantime, many expats opt to take out private health insurance to make sure they are covered.Private healthcare in Sweden can be very costly if you do not have cover from an insurer. Having a baby in a Swedish hospital without any kind of cover, for example, can set you back up to 65,000 SEK (£5,500 GBP / just under $7,000 USD), even if there are no complications during the delivery. Taking out private health insurance can make the cost of healthcare in Sweden easier to handle while you are waiting for your residency permit to arrive.

Health insurance in Sweden is generally not too expensive — on average it costs under 400 SEK per year — although the amount you need to pay will depend on the choices you make. Some of these, such as making sure you are covered for any pre-existing conditions, will be things you need to include in your policy, but there are some measures you can put in place to keep costs low.

Selectable Options

Taking a careful look at the selectable options and extra add-ons when you are signing up to a health insurance policy is one of the best ways to save some money. Sometimes insurers will make it sound like a selectable option is necessary — but if it is possible to remove it, then it is worth thinking about whether it is something you really need.

Maternity options are usually removable from private health plans

If you are not planning to have children, for example, then you can probably deduct the maternity care options from your policy. Bear in mind, however, that if you get pregnant by accident and then decide that you want to go through with the pregnancy, you might end up being landed with a large hospital bill if you have not kept this option as part of your insurance.

Sweden is a well-known destination for a number of winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding; and it is also a popular country with mountain climbers, rock climbers and long-distance hikers. For this reason, you might find that most of the policies you look at contain extensive options for medical evacuation in air ambulances to private hospitals near the mountain ranges; and even for evacuation back to your home country for treatment, in the event that you require a long convalescence. If you do not plan to take part in any of these activities, then removing them from your health policy could cut your costs significantly.

You do not need to worry about missing out on emergency treatment in Sweden: by law, hospitals must accept cases of life-threatening emergency and treat them accordingly.

Emergency evacuation options might be removable

If you are registered with the public health system, then staying in hospital will cost you about 1000 SEK per night; however, if you have no health cover then you might be landed with a large bill once you are ready to leave the hospital. Having private healthcare that covers emergencies is therefore a prudent measure; but check to see which hospitals your policy will cover. It might be the case that you can remove some of the specialist hospitals, which are more expensive to stay in, and instead choose to be treated at a public hospital that accepts private patients too.

Repatriation of remains is a difficult subject to think about — few people are comfortable with considering their own mortality — but it is an important point for consideration when you are setting up a health insurance policy.

In the event that the worst happens in Sweden, what would you like to do? Would you rather have your remains cremated in Sweden and given to a loved one there, or would you want your remains to be transported back to your home country? The answer will of course differ based on your personal circumstances and what belief system you subscribe to.

A lot of insurers will include repatriation of remains as standard; but if your partner is living with you in Sweden, and they have no plans to return home if you die, then you might prefer your remains to be dealt with in Sweden. Even if you would rather be repatriated after death, take a look at how much this would cost without insurance — you might find that it is worth removing the option from your policy anyway.

Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is another option to consider when signing up for private health insurance in Sweden. You can either choose to pay a percentage of the cost of your care — the most common option — or sometimes you can choose what types of care you are willing to pay for.

Paying for some of your treatments yourself can keep costs low

For example, if you rarely require prescription drugs, then perhaps you can choose a policy in which you pay for prescriptions but your insurer covers physiotherapy treatments, if this is something you use a lot of.

Increasing the voluntary excess on your policy will also bring the price of your monthly or annual premiums down, but it is important to do the maths and find out at which point the excess outweighs the benefits of lower premiums.

Sometimes it might be worth paying for your own care for certain medical needs. For example, if you visit an osteopath or chiropractor on a regular basis, then paying for this yourself might work out cheaper in the long run than trying to add it to your health insurance policy.

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How Much Do Health Procedures Cost In Sweden?

Sweden has an excellent public healthcare system, but you will still need to pay a small amount for visiting the doctor, picking up prescriptions, staying in hospital, or having any medical tests and procedures done.You can expect to pay about 200 SEK to see a doctor for a non-emergency appointment, or around 300 SEK if you need to go to the emergency room. Each night you need to stay in a hospital will cost you around 100 SEK; and visiting a specialist — for example, if your doctor refers you to see a neurologist — will probably set you back about 400 SEK.

Prescriptions will range in price depending on the medication you require, however the cost of prescriptions is capped at 2,200 SEK per individual per year. You could choose to take out private medical insurance to cover these, but it is unlikely that you would find a policy with premiums low enough to make it worth your while.

However, there are still some instances in which private health cover makes sense in Sweden. Although only 10% of the population use it, and it has only even been an option at all since 2010, it is still useful for have cover when you first arrive, while you are waiting for your residency permit, which can take up to eighteen months to be processed. You cannot register with a Swedish doctor in the public health system until you have become an official resident.

Cost Of Private Healthcare In Sweden

The cost of your health cover will depend on a number of factors, including whether you have any pre-existing conditions; which optional extras you want to add on to your policy; and how much voluntary excess you choose to add. However, on average you can expect to spend around 4000 SEK per year on private insurance.

Pre-existing conditions will increase the cost of your premiums

If you do not have a private health policy, you can still visit a private doctor in Sweden, but you will be charged in full for treatment. In an emergency, you will always be treated, but you might end up with a bill afterwards. Emergency evacuations — for example, if you have an accident while skiing in the mountains — could cost around 1100 SEK.

Comparisons Between Public And Private Procedures

Considering that most private doctors work in the public health system too, one of the only reasons why people opt for private health cover is to try to decrease waiting times. However, whilst wait times can be long for non-urgent procedures, if you do have an urgent medical condition then you should be able to be seen quickly.

Paying for your own treatment without having private health insurance can get very costly very quickly, though. This is one of the reasons why Sweden is not a popular destination for medical tourism, although people do still travel there for certain procedures, particularly orthopaedic surgery.

Waiting times are one of the main reasons why some people opt for private health insurance

Most people will find it much more efficient in terms of both time and money to simply use the state health system. Taking maternity care as an example, you will find a lack of private options available if you try to sort out your own pre-natal care, whereas the level of care available through state health cover is very high.

Giving birth in a hospital in Sweden will cost you around 100 SEK for each night you have to stay in hospital, if you are using the public health system. If you choose to have a baby in hospital and pay for it privately, you will be looking at something in the region of 65,000 SEK, even assuming that there are no complications during the birth.

Of course, if you have private health insurance then it should cover some of the cost for you, but it will still be more expensive than using the public system. Also, most parents prefer to see the same team throughout their pregnancy and during the birth; and since there is no pre-natal care available privately, you will have to go through the public health system for this.

Pre-natal care is not available privately

If you do opt to take out private health insurance in Sweden — for example, to cover you until you are registered with the public health system — then if there is any chance at all that you could get pregnant and have a baby, it would be prudent to add on the maternity option to your premium.

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How To Register With The Swedish Health System

Sweden has universal healthcare for all residents, whether they are locals or expats. The country has one of the best health systems in the world, although recently it has been criticised for the increasing wait times for non-urgent operations. If you move to Sweden, you will be eligible for healthcare subsidised by the state. You will still need to pay a token amount for your care, but this is very low and there are caps in place for things like prescriptions.Private healthcare is an option in Sweden, but it has only been available there since 2010 and it is not as popular as in many other countries. There is little difference between the standard of care you will receive going down the public or private routes; and since there are no eligibility requirements to meet before you qualify for healthcare, most expats do not feel the need to take out permanent health insurance in Sweden.

The main time when private health cover might come in handy is during the period after you have arrived in the country, but before you have set up your full public healthcare. You might be able to use your travel insurance for this, or your EHIC if you are an EU citizen, but for added peace of mind some people choose to take out full health cover for this period. Most insurers will have options to insure you for a limited period of time.

Unlike in some other countries, Sweden will allow you to enter the country and live there without having any health insurance. However, if anything does go wrong, then the bills can be costly, so it is worth making sure you are covered by private care at least until your public healthcare registration is complete.

How To Register With A Doctor In Sweden

To register with a doctor, you will first of all need a residence permit and a personal ID number. If you are working for a company based in Sweden, they will have sorted these out for you: ask your HR department if you have not received copies of the paperwork.

You can register with a doctor in Sweden once you have your personal ID number

If you are self-employed, or if you are not working during your stay in Sweden, then you will need to apply for your own residency permit through your country’s embassy, unless you are an EU citizen, in which case you can live and work freely in Sweden without getting a permit.

Bear in mind that applying personally for a residency permit — rather than through your employer — can have an extremely long waiting period; sometimes up to a year and a half. Applying online through the Swedish Migration Board’s website can speed up the process.

Once you have your Swedish residency permit, you will automatically be issued with your personal ID number. This is used for all official dealings including banking, taxation and healthcare. In the interim period while you are waiting for your residency permit and personal ID number to come through, you can speak to the Swedish Migration Board and ask for a reservnummer, which is a temporary identity number that will allow you to sign up with a doctor until your full ID number arrives.

You will then need to take your ID number or reservnummer to a local health centre and ask to register with a doctor. You can choose any health centre, as long as it is in the municipality where your ID number is registered. You can find a list of health centres in your local area by searching on 1177.se, the official Swedish health website.

You can register with any doctor in your local area

Once you have found the health centre you want to visit, you will need to call them to arrange an appointment. You will usually be met with an automated menu in Swedish, so if you do not speak the language, it would be helpful to have someone with you who can explain what the options are.

The automated system will ask what is the purpose of your call; will require you to enter your personal ID number or reservnummer; and will then give you a time when you can expect a call back from the doctor. This will usually be an hour-long slot: for example “The doctor will call you back between four and five o’clock this afternoon.”

When they call you back, tell them that you wish to register with their health centre. You will then be able to book an in-person appointment where you can go and fill in the forms. You will need to take your personal ID number with you when you go.

Appointments with the doctor incur a nominal fee — usually around 200 SEK — and if you need any prescription medication, you can expect to pay up to 250 SEK when you pick these up at the pharmacy. If you cannot afford to see your doctor, talk to your local authority to find out whether you are eligible for financial help from the state.

Setting Up Private Health Cover In Sweden

If you opt for private health cover, you will need to find a provider who can look after your needs. If you are only going to require private cover until your personal ID number has come through, then be sure to make this clear when you are getting quotes from insurers.

The main reasons why some people decide to take out private healthcare even after they have registered with the state system is for access to specific specialists, and to try to decrease waiting times. However, since private healthcare is not widely used in Sweden — only about 10% of the population have private cover — most doctors who work in the private sector also work for the public health service, which means that sometimes there is little material difference between the two.

There is not much difference between the levels of care you can expect in the public and private sectors

Once you have found an insurance option that suits you, simply fill in the forms on the insurer’s website, or call them up and ask for the forms to be sent to you in the post. You can request forms in English if you do not speak Swedish.

When your registration is complete and the first payment has been taken, you will be issued with proof of health insurance either by post or via email, and you will then need to take this with you when you go to visit a private doctor in Sweden.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Varsha Jaikumar, Helsingborg

Who are you?

I am Varsha Jaikumar, a 30 year old Indian IT professional, who recently joined an IT company in Gothenburg.Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Helsingborg, Sweden in January 2018 because my husband was required to be here and work as a consultant.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Moving to a whole new country comes with a lot of stress and a huge burden to move with, needless to mention parting with a few loved ones.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Finding accomodation wasn’t that easy. There seemed to be a shortage of apartments when we moved here and we kept shuffling between hotels and temporary apartments until we found a permanent place after about two months.

Are there many other expats in your area?


What is your relationship like with the locals?

Cordial. Although at workplace, people are really friendly and helpful and I share a great rapport with them.

What do you like about life where you are?

The work-life balance and work culture is great here. Travel is easy. And exploring other Schengen countries is easy.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Sometimes it is difficult to find/get things that are specific to my home country, for example clothing and certain food ingredients. Getting a job can be tough.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

I feel people here have a different mindset, in a good way of course. Culturally India is definitely very different than western countries, in terms of attire, food, communication, topics chosen for discussion, way of working, etc., but nothing is shocking because we have all kinds of people in India.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

I like the food and drink here. I am not extremely picky when it comes to food, but I have noticed that there are far fewer options when it comes to vegetarian or vegan food.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Be open to changes. All countries are different and come with their share of advantages and disadvantages; and this is actually very subjective because it just depends on what you are used to since your childhood. If you are going to live here for a long time, it may be worthwhile to learn the language and to develop a network as both help to get a job.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to live in Sweden for a few years, maybe five or even ten.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Melanie Aronson, Malmö

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I’ve lived abroad a number of times. I studied abroad in college in Italy and ran away to live in Barcelona for year. Most recently in 2014 I moved to Sweden on a Fulbright grant.After it ended I decided to stay because I’ve always been attracted to the European lifestyle and I like the Scandinavian quality of life.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I moved to Sweden at the beginning of the winter and struggled deeply with depression and loneliness. The weather was rainy, gray and depressing like nothing I’d ever seen before. People didn’t make eye contact on the streets and making new friends was extremely tough as an adult outside of university. There were days I couldn’t leave my couch at all.

How did you find somewhere to live?

In my first year in Sweden I moved 5 times. I kept getting kicked out because as a new immigrant I didn’t have any way to get a secure contract. It made me feel very vulnerable and I yearned for stability. Eventually I had to invest in a cooped building that couldn’t kick me out.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes. There are a lot of immigrants fleeing conflict zones and quite a few visiting international students but because we aren’t a huge city there are fewer international workers than the larger capitals around us. (I live in Malmö).

What is your relationship like with the locals?

I have a few local friends but haven’t really connected with many on the same level I have with fellow internationals.

What do you like about life where you are?

Things function smoothly. The food quality in the supermarkets is really high. Life is calm most of the time.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I still feel lonely and have trouble finding creative inspiration where I live. The bureaucracy to get anything officially done related to “the Swedish system” is overly cumbersome. (immigration, taxes, etc.)

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

People in Sweden often avoid confrontation and therefore give you very vague answers that offer false hope and expectations. It’s taken a while to learn how to read between the lines.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The quality is very high. I think the international food is quite lacking here but the Swedish food is quite high quality and delicious. There are also great Syrian restaurants popping up left and right.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Join activities and groups around your hobbies to meet new people. Try not to compare everything to your culture back home.

What are your plans for the future?

To solve my problem with making friends in Scandinavia I have created a mobile app that is supposed to ease the integration process for newcomers by allowing them to meet locals through common interest keyword searches. We are launching next month: www.getpanion.com

You can keep up to date with Melanie's adventures on her website.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Sweden – Recommended Social Media Accounts

At Expat Focus, we like to be on the lookout for resources around the web that could help prospective expats adjust to their new countries. Today, we’re taking a look at Sweden and some of the social media accounts you should be following if you’re thinking of moving there.The Local Sweden
Facebook Page | Twitter

One of the joys of expat life is knowing that community goes beyond local area, city and even country. If you are an expat, if you travel or do business internationally, if you study abroad or have friends and family in other countries, then your society is a wide and complex patchwork of cultures. The Local (Sweden branch) is the largest English-language news network in Europe, with 6 million readers every month.

Expats In Gothenburg
Facebook Page

The Expats in Gothenburg Facebook Page is focused primarily on internationals living here in Sweden – students, career people, internationals moving here with a Swedish partner, and also the integration of many internationals coming here from another land. Full of helpful articles and local tips for assimilation, this account is one to watch.

American Expats In Sweden
Facebook Group

Discussing what life is like an expat in Sweden, the closed American Expats In Sweden Facebook Group is a lovely place to ask questions and help others with theirs. To join you’ll have to consider yourself a true American – having been raised in the USA or having lived there for a long period of time, and either live in Sweden or plan to move to Sweden. Link dropping is strictly frowned upon.

Stockholm Expat
Facebook Page

Stockholm Expat – the Facebook Page and website – was launched by the American expat who created JobsinStockholm.com to share information and resources with both fellow expatriates in Sweden and people thinking of making the move to the Scandinavian nation with thousands of coastal islands and inland lakes, along with vast boreal forests and glaciated mountains.

The Expat Eagle
Facebook Page | Twitter | Instagram

Pairing his dual adoration for Crystal Palace Football Club and Helsingborgs IF, this un-mutually exclusive arrangement of a football-loving expat is an excellent metaphor for the double heart that immigrants have for both their birth and adopted homes. The is a blog, podcast and YouTube channel provide a platform for more than just a ball being kicked about.

Expat Lund & Malmö, Powered by HIC
Facebook Page

HIC have set up an informal marketplace for expats to connect and share knowledge of life in the Lund and Malmö. They have created an on- and offline meeting place where expats are welcome to network and connect with people and companies inal the area. A win-win situation for all concerned, this is an excellent resource.

Bailie Bailey

With a smile that lights up a room and a penchant for excellent beer, Bailie’s blog is a perfection rainy day afternoon exploration. She lives in Ängelholm, Sweden with her lovely husband where everyday life is much simpler and rather un-American.

Everything Sweden
Facebook Page | Twitter | Instagram

Everything Sweden is a community magazine all about expats in Stockholm, for people thinking of moving there, living there, and simply wanting to know more about the intriguing country. The stories shared as articles are moving, helpful and full of fascinating tidbits.

Relocate To Sweden
Facebook Page

This is the ultimate resource for relocating to the beautiful shores of Sweden – featuring everything from what to mark in your calendar, from traditions to tax declaration, to an explanation of Swedish concepts such as “squeeze days”. The articles featured are an essential reading resource before those suitcases are packed.

Job Tips For Expats In Malmö And Lund
Facebook Group

Featuring excellent hints and subtle things that are essential to landing a job in the beautiful regions of Malmö and Lund, this is an excellent guide for expats who really know what they are striving for. Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg, and the 5th biggest city in Scandinavia, and Lund is is a city in the province of Skåne, at the southern tip of Sweden.

We’re always on the lookout for more accounts to feature – if you write about living abroad on social media, leave us a link in the comments and we’ll take a look!

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