First aid: Only one in every two people feels confident enough to help in an emergency

What should you do if someone suffers a medical emergency? A recent study commissioned by the Swiss Red Cross and Helsana is raising eyebrows: Half of the population lack confidence in emergency situations when they need to provide first aid. They simply don't know what to do or fear their knowledge is outdated.


In a medical emergency, you need to act quickly. You need to provide first aid to the sick or injured person and to bridge the gap until professional medical assistance arrives. First aid can prevent further damage to the person's health or even save their life.

The Swiss Red Cross (SRC) and the Swiss health insruance company Helsana commissioned a representative study into the first aid reactions and skills of the Swiss population. The results of the study were analysed by Sotomo and show that although people are very willing to assist someone in an emergency, half of them do not have sufficient knowledge of first aid.

What once was learnt gets forgotten

This lack of confidence can cause people to be reluctant to help. One of the reasons for this is that the last time they attended a first aid course was often too long ago – about 15 years on average. And over time, they have forgotten a lot.

Markus Mader, SRC Director-General, says: "With its wide range of basic and advanced first aid training courses, the SRC and its rescue organizations make an important contribution to ensuring that every person in Switzerland can provide competent help in a medical emergency."

The majority of those interviewed who feel insecure in an emergency are convinced that regular refresher courses would make them more confident. There is great demand for first aid courses integrated into compulsory education. The majority of respondents also believe that even in the digital age, first-aid courses should be traditional, i.e. on-site and face-to-face. Surprisingly, the younger population feel the same way.

The SRC and Helsana are working together to ensure that everyone in Switzerland can provide first aid in an emergency. Dr Claudine Blaser, a member of the Helsana management board, says: "In partnership with the SRC, we want to raise awareness of the importance of first aid. Because, in the moment of truth, it's important to act quickly and prevent unnecessary suffering."

Prepared to help, despite Covid-19 rules

It is reassuring that three-quarters of the interviewees stated that in a medical emergency they would dial the correct number – 144 – to call an ambulance. And, although the Covid-19 measures have a firm grip on the everyday life of the Swiss population this year, a clear majority of people would not hesitate to provide first aid despite social distancing rules.

About the study

The SRC–Helsana survey, carried out by the Sotomo research centre, sheds light on first aid in Switzerland. A total of 3,000 people were interviewed in the German-, French- and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland in July 2020. The survey was based on online panels run by Sotomo and Intervista. Statistical weighting was used to make sure the results of the study are representative of the total Swiss population aged 18 and over.

World First Aid Day on 9 September

The International Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement will use World First Aid Day on 9 September to highlight the importance of first aid skills.

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