OVER one third of the over 50s in Ireland are obese and another 44pc are overweight, a major new study has revealed.
Growing numbers of the older generation are also becoming "problem drinkers" with one in five men now falling into this category along with 11pc of women.
In another worrying trend more than a quarter are on several prescribed drugs or other medicines, the research led by Trinity College has revealed.
Nearly of fifth of men and a quarter of women over 50 have fallen in the past year, and almost 10pc of the of these needed medical treatment.
The findings emerged in the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), a national tracking of over 8,000 people aged 50 and over in Ireland .
It is based on data collected between April 2012 and January 2013 and shows how the lives of the over 50s in Ireland have changed over the period since they were last interviewed in 2009 and 2010.
"This was a period of considerable social and economic change in Ireland, dominated by the severe financial and economic crisis.
"Key findings demonstrate serious health challenges faced by older adults in Ireland such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and problematic drinking," said the report.
However, overall the over 50s report a high quality of life, smoking prevalence has declined and incomes have remained stable.
Principal Investigator Prof Rose Anne Kenny, Prof of Medical Gerontology said: "Ireland’s population is ageing.
"This second series of findings show that recent policy changes have already impacted on aspects of health, economic and social care in Ireland.
"TILDA has demonstrated strong associations between obesity and diabetes and cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, angina and heart attacks.
"The high prevalence of obesity and associated chronic disease is a cause for concern. Given current and future dramatic changes in the Irish population, with one fifth of people aged over 65 by 2060, TILDA will greatly assist new policy initiatives to address health behaviours and disease prevention so that our later life years can be healthy and independent.”
Other findings show:
*There has been a decline in private health insurance cover among the under 65s but an increase in those aged 65 or over.
*The percentage of the over 50s with a medical or GP visit card has increased overall, but declined in those aged 70 years and over.
*The uptake of prostate and breast cancer screening is high but the uptake of the flu vaccine is low.
*The incomes of the over 50s have remained stable, but wealth has fallen, largely due to a reduction in the value of property assets.