Sunday 21 January 2018

Revealed: Ireland is healthier and wealthier - but mixed picture on our wellbeing as a nation

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Paul Melia

Paul Melia

We're healthier and wealthier overall but more people are at risk of poverty and we are haunted by crime and homelessness, a new report finds.

The 'Wellbeing of the Nation 2017' report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) finds that we can now expect to enjoy more than 67 years of good health, with average household debt falling and more people working.

But it's not entirely a rosy picture. More of us believe crime is a serious problem, the number of homeless people has rocketed while participation in sport among those aged 15 years and older has dropped, and more people are classed as obese.

"This publication attempts to measure wellbeing, which is influenced by many factors including the economic conditions of the country, the health of its population and the educational attainment of its people," CSO statistician Damien Lenihan said.

The CSO says the need for national wellbeing or progress indications has grown in recent years, with Government and policymakers needing to know how Ireland is performing in a "general sense". Indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - which measures the value of all goods and services produced - are a "useful" measure, but not sufficient.

"Other indicators such as health, education and social connectedness are also required to supplement the more traditional economic indicators in measuring the progress of a society in full," it said.

On economic indicators, it finds that average household debt has fallen while the unemployment rate has steadily fallen from 13.9pc in 2013 to 8.6pc in 2016.

The long-term unemployment rate has also fallen from 8.1pc to 4.4pc over the same period. This can affect both financial security, but also psychologically through stress and lower self-esteem and is one of the causes of persistent poverty.

It cautions about the numbers working more than 48 hours per week, which rose from 7.1pc in 2013 to 8.4pc in 2016. The picture is less positive on discrimination - it finds that 50pc of adults have experienced discrimination in the workplace, up from 41pc in 2004 and 48pc in 2010.

On housing and the environment, it notes that the number of homeless people rose from 3,808 in 2011 to 6,906 in 2016. On health, the expected number of healthy years for a person born in Ireland in 2015 is 67.3 - this compares with 66.9 in 2014. However, 62pc of people are classed as overweight or obese, up from 60pc in 2015.

The percentage of individuals aged 15 or over involved in sport fell from 47.2pc in 2013 to 45pc in 2015.

On crime, some 30pc of people were worried about becoming a victim of crime in 2015, up from 27pc in 2010. The rate stood at 39pc in 2003. Some 49pc believed crime was a "very serious problem" in 2010, compared with 38pc in 1998.

Irish Independent

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