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Health survey depicts nation of overweight drinkers

Published 16/11/2016

The Irish Health Survey looked at the state of the nation's wellbeing
The Irish Health Survey looked at the state of the nation's wellbeing

Ireland is a nation of overweight drinkers with back problems, high blood pressure and allergies, suggests the first survey of its kind.

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

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.

It found more than half (53%) of Irish people are overweight or obese.

More than a fifth (22%) smoke, with people living in poorer areas more likely to have a tobacco habit.

Eight in 10 (81%) people regularly drink alcohol - with a sixth (16%) of the population saying they "binge drink" more than once a week.

The survey found:

:: Almost a 10th (8%) of the population said they are at least moderately depressed.

:: One in 10 of those aged 15 to 24 said they have visited a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist over the past year.

:: Chronic back pain is the most common condition, affecting almost a fifth (19%) of the population; followed by high blood pressure (16%); and allergies such as rhinitis, eye inflammation, dermatitis and food allergies (14%).

Despite this, the vast majority of people questioned (83%) said they believe their health to be good or very good.

But almost a third (32%) said they have a long standing illness or health condition.

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," he said.

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

The average Irish person visits the GP six times a year, the poll found.

A quarter of the population reported taking at least one day off work over the past year because of a health-related problem.

The survey also revealed one in 10 looks after someone with a chronic health condition or infirmity due to old age.

In most cases the person being cared for is a family member.

The average number of hours spent providing care is almost 45 hours every week.

Rachel Clark, health promotion manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, said the report is incredibly worrying as being overweight or obese and drinking too much alcohol significantly increases the risk of many common cancers.

"After not smoking, being a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol are the most important things you can do to reduce your cancer risk," she said.

"We urgently need to increase awareness across Ireland of the dangers of drinking alcohol and being overweight."

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