Wednesday 19 June 2019

Obesity and ageing means Ireland has second highest cancer rate in Europe

Heartburn that keeps coming back could be an early sign of a cancer which is set to double in Ireland in the next two decades. Stock picture
Heartburn that keeps coming back could be an early sign of a cancer which is set to double in Ireland in the next two decades. Stock picture
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Obesity, unhealthy lifestyles and an ageing population have pushed Ireland to the second highest rate of cancer in the EU.

The incidence rate of the disease here is more than 10pc higher than the EU average, and is second only to Hungary.

Cancer incidence rates are based on numbers of new cases of the disease registered in a country in a year, divided by the population.

Ireland’s rate is 677 per 100,000, compared to countries like Italy where it is 552 per 100,000.

The stark statistics are revealed in the latest OECD report ‘Health at a Glance: Europe 2018’.

It also found that Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and France have the highest rates of mental health disorders with more than 18pc.

The rates may be higher in some countries partly because there is more willingness to seek medical help and less stigma.

Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol and drug use disorders affect more than one in six people across the EU in any given year.

Besides the impact on people’s well-being, the report estimates the total costs of mental ill-health at over €600bn – or more than 4pc of GDP – across the 28 EU countries.

For Ireland the estimated cost of mental health is €8.3bn equivalent to 3.17pc of GDP. A large part of these costs are due to lower employment rates and productivity of people with mental health .

It comes against a background of warnings of a slowdown in the increase in life expectancy in several European countries including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

It suggests that the rate of cardiovascular deaths, possibly linked with rising levels of obesity and diabetes, is playing a role.

There has also been an increase in the number of deaths among elderly people due partly to bad flu seasons in recent years in some countries.

However life expectancy in Ireland increased by almost two-and-a-half years between 2005 and 2016 and is now above he EU average.

The life expectancy for women is 83 years and 79.3 years for men.

The report is damning about Ireland’s waiting list for surgery, pointing to the rise in  numbers in the queue for more than three months for a cataract operation went up from 50pc in 2010 to 77pc in 2016.

Although the National Treatment Purchase Fund has helped improve waiting times in the past year, it said initiatives to tackle the problem do not appear to have any lasting effect. Patients in the Netherlands get the operation in just over a month.

When it comes to so called bed-blocking by patients who no longer need of acute care, Ireland is top of the league.

Meanwhile it showed people past pension age in Ireland also had the fifth highest usage of tranquillisers.

And new mothers who have a normal maternity hospital delivery in Ireland were discharged in an average of 2.4 days - but if they were in Croatia they would stay for 4.8 days. They leave hospital an average of 1.5 days after birth in the UK.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News