independent

Monday 21 April 2014

What a difference 13 years make - Irish now among EU's longest living

Irish now among EU's longest living

IRISH people have added four full years to their lives in the past 13 years, making Ireland one of the countries with the longest lifespans in Europe.

An assessment of the nation's health shows that not only are we living longer but we see ourselves as extremely healthy up to the age of 65 and we have the highest fertility rate in the EU.

The country also has a declining suicide rate and we are smoking and drinking less.

On the downside, however, Irish people are more likely to die of cancer, suffer from a chronic illness in old age, and one-in-five of our children under the age of five are either overweight or obese.

The latest 'Health in Ireland: Key Trends' report published by the Department of Health shows that life expectancy here has grown "rapidly and unexpectedly" by four years and is now above the EU average.

Death rates from all major causes have also declined significantly during that period but the death rate from cancers is 2.2pc above the EU average.

The five-year survival rate for many cancers also remains lower here than the average for OECD countries with the exceptions of breast and colorectal cancers.

The number being treated for drug problems has increased by 45pc since 2004.

The report says the overall picture of the nation's health is one of "continuing progress but at a reduced rate, set in a context of very significant financial constraints".

Health Minister James Reilly welcomed the report, saying "the key challenge and opportunity will be to ensure that scarcer resources are carefully targeted to deliver services in the fairest, most efficient and most effective ways possible".

He added that the ageing population, with those over 65 increasing by 20,000 each year, along with the problems presented by smoking, alcohol and obesity were "significant challenges". The report shows that 40pc of the population is now covered by a medical card which is a rise of 60pc over the decade.

Meanwhile, the number of people employed in the health service -- which stands at 100,000 -- is at its lowest level since 2004.

Immunisation rates are at 95pc, but infant mortality, which was lower than the EU average, has been climbing.

Just over 80pc of men and women regard their health as good or very good and this is the highest figure in the EU, but by the time they reach 65 years, well over half are suffering from a chronic illness.

SUICIDE

In the 75-plus age group, 43pc of men and 50pc of women report severe limitation of their daily activities due to health problems.

Deaths from diseases of the circulatory system have dropped since 2003 and deaths from suicide are down 10pc in the same period -- down almost 9pc between 2011 and 2012.

When it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, the consumption has dropped over the past 10 years but a higher number of adults in young age groups binge drink at least once a month.

Smoking and drinking among 15 and 16 year olds was lower than the average for other countries but binge drinking was slightly higher.

The number of children in care increased by 3pc and the percentage of these in foster care rose to almost 92pc between 2011 and 2012.

In terms of hospital services, there has been a 93pc increase in the number of day cases due to improved and less invasive medical procedures.

Prescribed items under the General Medical Services have increased by 7pc and while there has been a drop in the numbers covered by private health insurance, the exception is the over-70s age group where the numbers have risen.

An estimated €200m had been chopped off the public health bill this year, with expenditure dropping from €14.1bn in 2012 to an estimated €13.9bn this year.

Irish Independent

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