Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Interesting Story on Irish People’s Health and Habits.

Paul Sweeney: Did you know that 23% of Irish people still smoke, in spite of the ultra clear evidence that it is deadly? More men (26%) than women (20%) smoke. 

60% of us eat crap ie snack foods other than fruit, daily? And 75% of us drink alcohol? However this level of drinking is only in the past year while 41% drink at least once a week.  

But 37% of drinkers state that they drink six or more standard drinks (binge drinking) on a typical drinking occasion. Having been at Jimmy Murphy’s poignant play “The Kings of the Kilburn High Road” in the Gaiety last night, which centres around drink and achievement or lack of it, this latter statistic strikes a cord.


These facts about living in Ireland today are in Healthy Ireland Survey 2016, just published. It interviewed a representative sample of 7,500 people aged over 15 years.

People taking up smoking continues at a high rate, with 20% of those aged under 25 currently smoking, though 48% of all who have smoked in the past year have made an attempt to quit during that period. Cold turkey is yer only man!

Most people (84%) perceive their health to be very good or good. 28% say that they have a long-standing illness or health condition and a very high 92% indicate that they would like to make a change to improve their health and wellbeing, which is good.

There is information on sexual activity of the native Irish and disturbingly, in a more liberal and educated society, 20% of those not in a relationship with their most recent sexual partner, did not use any form of contraception.

Men reported higher positive mental health scores than women (69.8 and 65.9 respectively) and as you would expect, higher positive mental health was reported among younger people than older people (15-24: 69.1; 75 and older: 61.6). Those living in Dublin report lower scores on the Mental Health Index-5 (MHI-5) scale than those living elsewhere (79.8 and 85.2 respectively). This suggests higher levels of psychological distress in Dublin.

This wave of the Healthy Ireland Survey covers such topics such as: 
 Smoking
 Alcohol
 Diet and nutrition
 Physical activity
 Sexual health
 General health
 Health service utilisation and mental health.

Only a quarter of us eat the minimum recommended guideline of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. For Irish people in 2016, the most common reasons for not participating in more activity are being too busy (43%) or already doing enough (31%). 

The average amount of time spent sitting on our bottoms each day is 6 hours and 36 minutes. That is the average!
The Healthy Ireland Survey looked at four types of unhealthy behaviours -smoking, binge drinking, consuming less than five portions of fruit or vegetables daily, spending eight or more hours a day sitting (sedentary behaviour) 

It found that over eight out of ten (86%) in the population have at least one unhealthy behaviour, with approximately half (46%) having multiple (two or more) unhealthy behaviours.

Over nine in ten smokers and a similar proportion of drinkers have at least one other unhealthy behaviour.

So stand up and move around! 
Eat an apple not a bickie!

Paul Sweeney is Chair of TASC’s Economists’ Network and a Council Member of Healthy Ireland.


2 comments:

James Wickham said...

Paul
I think this note falls into the trap of treating health outcomes as massively the result of lifestyle choice ('eat apples not biccies'). TASC's own health inequalities report documented the extent of health inequalities in Ireland. The report linked this to (a) economic inequality and (b) the particular model of healthcare.
Of course lifestyle changes are important, but focusing just on them, as Healthy Ireland appears to do, is tackling the symptoms not the disease...

PAUL SWEENEY said...

James
You miss the point. This report is a survey of what people do - habits etc. It is not about the many other issues which HI is also now dealing with.