Wednesday 18 September 2019

Men narrow the life expectancy gap


Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

Men are finally catching up with women when it comes to narrowing the gap in life expectancy.

Both sexes are living longer, but male life expectancy in Ireland has increased by three years, and female life expectancy by almost two years, since 2006, a new report has revealed.

"This improvement is largely due to lower mortality and better survival from conditions such as heart disease and cancer affecting older age groups," according to the new Health in Ireland 'key trends 2018' report. Life expectancy at birth for women was 3.7 years longer than for men in 2016, but this was a marked improvement from the 5.6-year difference which was noted in 1996.

Women can now expect to live to an average of 83.6 years, and men to 79.9 years of age.

The report reveals we think we are healthier than our European neighbours.

A total of 83pc of Irish men and women rated their health as good or very good in 2016, which was the highest in the EU.

However, men are more inclined to binge drink than women, with over half of men binging on a typical day of drinking, compared with just under 20pc of women this year.

The highest rate of binge drinking was recorded among the 15 to 24-year-old age group.

The report, which gives an overview of health trends over the past decade, revealed that access to healthcare remains an issue.

This is despite total health expenditure rising to an estimated €16.8bn in 2018.

The number of people on outpatient waiting lists increased to more than 500,000 in October.

According to the report, the number of people waiting for outpatient appointments has risen steadily over the past year, and the number of those waiting 52 weeks or more has risen 16pc since October 2017.

The report noted a significant reduction in deaths from suicide, with the most recent figures showing death rates are down 26pc since 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of births has been falling, with 62,053 registered in 2017.

But fertility rates here remain the third highest in the EU, just behind France and Sweden.

Ireland is beginning to catch up with other European countries in terms of our ageing population. The numbers of those aged 65 years and over has increased by 35pc since 2009 and has been increasing at a faster rate than that of our EU neighbours.

For the first time, the report included statistics on HPV immunisation rates among girls in second-level schools.

There was a drop in HPV vaccine uptake, from 82pc in 2011 to 51pc in 2017.

However, immunisation uptake rates for most other major illnesses have remained mostly stable and above 90pc.

The report noted that both the number of blood donations and the percentage of blood donors in the Irish population have declined in the past five years. The percentage of blood donors in the population in 2017 was 1.7pc.

Commenting on the report, Health Minister Simon Harris said that it "gives us the opportunity to assess the performance of the Irish health system and highlights where things are going well, and where we need to improve."

He added: "A striking feature is the growth in the number of people aged over 65.

"Each year, this cohort increases by almost 20,000 people."

Irish Independent

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