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Diet, exercise and sex survey to cost us €3m

FINDING out about people's diet, sexual health, physical activity and how much they smoke and drink will cost the Department of Health more than €3m over the next three years.

The Department is planning to hire outside experts to carry out yearly lifestyle surveys which they need to develop future health policies.

At the moment Department planners are depending on a survey published seven years ago, which is likely to be completely out of date because of economic and social changes in the country since that time.

The seven-year-old data is problematic for the effective implementation of Healthy Ireland, and for measuring the health behaviours of the population.

The Government's new national framework for action, Healthy Ireland, is aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of all citizens.

The proposed annual survey will look at the health of a population sample over the age of 15 with questions about all aspects of their lifestyle to uncover key trends.


Researchers will carry out face to face interviews with about 5,500 people each year during the three year contract, which is expected to cost between €750,000 and €1m a year.

The aim is to have the first analysis of year one by the middle of March next year.

The contract to carry out the lifestyle surveys has been put out to tender and applications must be submitted by June 4.

In 2007 the SLAN survey, the last such lifestyle survey to be carried out, found that adult obesity was posing a major health threat.

It concluded, "the findings highlight the need to prioritise the recommendations of the 2005 Report of the National Task Force on Obesity.

At the time that study found two in five Irish adults were overweight and more than one in five was obese.

Ireland had the fourth highest prevalence of overweight and obesity in men in the EU and the seventh highest prevalence among women.