Ireland is a nation of overweight drinkers with back problems - CSO

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Eilish O'Regan

Ireland is facing a health crisis as our weight, drinking habits and issues with blood pressure and allergies were laid bare in an eye-opening report.

Almost a 10th of the population is depressed, while 10pc of youngsters have seen a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist over the past year.

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The stark findings are revealed in the Irish Health Survey, a state-of-the-nation study under a wider European project which polled more than 10,000 households across the country.

Some 8pc of the population aged over 15 reported symptoms of at least moderate depression in the two weeks prior to interview.

This rate was highest among teenagers and those in their early twenties.

The insight into the nation's well-being shows that while we have a positive outlook, too many are still addicted to cigarettes and most also need to eat better and exercise more.

It shows how far the country must go if it wants to avoid becoming the fattest in Europe.

Around 83pc of the adult population rate their health as good or very good.

Just 3pc describe their health as bad or very bad.

This is despite one-in-three having a long-standing illness or health condition.

The three most commonly reported conditions are chronic back disorder, high blood pressure and allergies.

The allergies include rhinitis, eye inflammation, dermatitis and food allergies.

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Nearly twice as many who have a long-standing illness or a health condition are in disadvantaged areas compared to those in more affluent neighbourhoods.

Some 28pc of the population reported that they are limited in everyday activities because of health problems.

The report provides yet more proof of our expanding waistlines. Half the population is overweight or obese .

Six in 10 men are either overweight or obese, compared to 45pc of females .

Half say they do sports, fitness or recreational fitness activities.

One-third reported they do muscle-strengthening exercises.

More than eight in 10 reported that they walk to get to and from places. And 14pc say they use their bike to get around.

More eight in 10 of us drink alcohol. While 88pc of people in affluent areas enjoy a drink, this compares to 74pc in disadvantaged circumstances. And 16pc binge drink at least once a week while 22pc over the age of 15 are smokers.

Read more: 'Europe's biggest carnivores' - Irish people consume equivalent of 70 steaks per year

One-quarter reported they were absent from work due to a health-related problem at least one day in the previous year.

On average we paid 6.2 visits to the GP in a year.

When it comes to the five-a-day rule, only 42pc are eating enough fruit and vegetables.

Almost half of women say they are eating this amount compared to one-third of men.

The next stage of the survey will show how we compare with our European neighbours.

The latest update comes on foot of the recent Health Department's Healthy Ireland survey.

It also highlighted the need for improvement in key areas with particular concern about our levels of physical exercise and rates of overweight and obesity.

Damien Lenihan, of the Central Statistics Office, which released the report, said the findings give a good overview of the state of the nation's health.

"This first release of the Irish Health Survey provides a comprehensive picture of self-reported health in Ireland.

"This is due to the breadth of the survey, examining aspects of health such as health status, health care usage, and health determinants."