Thursday 23 November 2017

We're living longer, but 'the good life' leaves us prone to serious illness

Ireland’s death rate from heart attacks, cancer and pneumonia is above the EU average. Stock Image: GETTY
Ireland’s death rate from heart attacks, cancer and pneumonia is above the EU average. Stock Image: GETTY
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Irish people are living longer - but we still lag behind the Swiss, Spaniards, Italians and French despite many nations now suffering high rates of the same chronic diseases.

Across Europe we are all enjoying too much of the good things in life, leaving us prone to heart disease and cancer.

Life expectancy in Ireland is now at 81.4 years.

It puts us on par with our UK neighbours, according to the OECD's 'Health At a Glance: Europe 2016'.

There are 550,000 premature deaths of working‑age people across the EU due to chronic diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer, annually.

Earlier diagnosis and better treatments have substantially increased the share of people surviving these diseases.

But many countries including Ireland, the UK and particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe are still behind in terms of cancer survival rates.

"Many more lives could be saved if standards of care are raised to the best level across EU countries," it said.

The study examined key health measures across 28 EU countries, five candidate countries to the EU and three European Free Trade Association countries.

Ireland's death rate from heart attacks, cancer and pneumonia is above the EU average.

Ireland has the second highest death rate from respiratory diseases among EU countries, outranked only by the UK.

We are also high on the scale for conditions such as bronchitis and emphysema.

These are contributing to the high numbers of patients who will turn up at hospital emergency departments over the coming months.

When it comes to prostate cancer we have the third highest incidence.

We rank in sixth place for breast cancer incidence and are fourth on the league table for all forms of the disease.

Death rates from breast cancer are the second highest in Europe. We remain optimistic and, along with Sweden, we have the highest proportion of adults who regard their health as good or very good.

On the plus side, deaths from strokes have fallen significantly below the EU average and Ireland has below average suicide rates, ranking as 10th lowest suicide rate in the EU in 2013.Some 18 per 100,000 people took their own lives.

Angel Gurría , secretary-general of the OECD, said: "Many EU countries are actively targeting the risk factors for chronic diseases through a mix of public awareness campaigns, regulations and taxation.

"Yet, more than one in five adults in the EU continues to smoke every day. More than one in five adults in the EU reports heavy alcohol consumption.

"We must do more for our own health and our economies."

Irish Independent

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