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Introduction and Key Findings

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This is the second publication of the “Irish Health Survey”, the data for which was collected in 2019 and early 2020. The first health survey was collected for reference year 2015, but in a different way to how the data was collected for this publication – more detail on this follows below.

This publication is part of an EU wide health survey and in time, when other countries report on their data, we can see how the Irish health experience, as reported by people themselves, compares to that of our European neighbours.

This publication of the “Main Results” provides data and insights on various aspects of health in Ireland. Other publications using these survey results will present on the health experience of persons with disabilities and carers. The data collection for this publication was conducted between July 2019 and February 2020 and accordingly relates to the pre-pandemic health and other experiences of respondents.

The survey is based on self-reported data from persons aged 15 years and over, and outlines their view of their health status – from how well they are feeling, to the extent to which they suffer from long-standing health conditions, as well as other factors. People’s engagement with the Irish health system is also outlined – the frequency by which they access health services, to the nature of those services. The publication concludes on the health determinants of the population aged 15 years and over – what are the choices we make as regards smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise? To what extent are we as a nation overweight, as reported by the people themselves? To what extent do we use preventive health services like taking a flu vaccine or getting our blood pressure checked?

This publication outlines all of the above issues, and critically, looks at them through the lenses of relative affluence, age, sex, employment status, nationality and region. 

Unsurprisingly, people’s self-reported health status generally declines with age. Females generally report a more positive health experience than males, as do non- Irish nationals compared to Irish nationals. The publication also analyses the data by relative affluence, and it can be seen that the more disadvantaged a person is, the poorer their self-reported health status and the more they engage with the Irish health system. This publication also highlights the poorer health status of the unemployed compared to those in employment, as reported by people themselves. In particular, unemployed persons report higher levels of mental ill-health compared to those in employment.

Note on methodology and 2019 & 2015 Irish Health Survey results:

This publication outlines the results of the 2019 Irish Health Survey. The survey data was collected via an interviewer administered interview where respondents were asked questions on their health status and health experiences. There is a risk when asking sensitive questions that some form of “social desirability bias” may be present, where the respondent may not feel entirely comfortable in giving an ‘accurate’ picture of their experiences. This may be seen in the answers to questions around smoking and alcohol consumption, to name just a few. Additionally, it is important to note that respondents are being asked detailed health questions which may have led to some comprehension or recall issues, despite the best efforts of our field staff in assisting with the completion of the survey. It is the respondent’s own account of their health experience which is being reported on in this publication. It may be the case that some of this understanding could differ to what their medical professional would record. Accordingly, users are asked to exercise judgement in the analysis of the data in this publication and to be aware of the underlying methodology of the survey. The 2015 Health Survey was administered via a self-completion questionnaire. Given this fundamental difference in how the data was collected in 2015 & 2019, any direct comparison between the 2019 results in this publication and the 2015 results available on the CSO website would need careful consideration.

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Some key findings include:

  • Affluent people are more likely to feel their health status is Very good or good than people who are disadvantaged - 92% of Very affluent persons compared to 78% of persons who are Very disadvantaged. See Table 2.1.
  • Over a quarter of persons aged 15 years and over report having a long lasting condition, with older persons reporting higher levels. See Table 2.2.
  • Majority of persons (82%) report no limitations in everyday activities due to a health problem. See Table 2.3.
  • Over a fifth (21%) of Unemployed persons report some form of mental ill-health compared to 9% of those In employmentSee Table 2.5 and Figure 2.4.
  • Prevalence of hospital in-patient admissions rises with age and disadvantage level. See Table 3.2.
  • In general, females and older people more likely to use a preventive health service. See Table 4.1.
  • Physical activity declines with age and relative disadvantage level. See Table 4.3.
  • Younger persons more likely to drink 6 or more units of alcohol in one sitting. See Table 4.5.
  • Over half of persons aged 15 years and over in the State are overweight or obese. See Table 4.6.

Go to next chapter: Health Status