Belfast Telegraph

Traveller life expectancy unchanged

Life expectancy for traveller men has not improved in the last quarter of a century, a study has revealed.

Figures showed they live on average 15 years less than men in the general population, with the average lifespan of 61.7 - a level not seen in the rest of society since the 1940s.

Female members of the travelling community also suffer similarly, living on average 11.5 years less than women in the general population. That level has not been experienced by the rest of society since the 1960s.

Elsewhere the survey, Our Geels (Our Community in Cant traveller language), showed infant mortality was about three times the rate in the general population - 3.9 per 1,000 births compared to 14.1.

Missy Collins, a primary health care worker and spokeswoman with traveller support group Pavee Point, said the statistics were frightening.

"I'm very frustrated when I hear some of the findings from this study and I know of the health needs of my people, and that many of us are dying too young," she said. "We all need to work together to improve travellers' situation in Ireland."

Deaths from respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and suicides were more markedly increased in travellers compared to the general population.

Campaigners called for a time limited action plan to prioritise the findings of this study and demanded that more money was spent on travellers' health.

Martin Collins, assistant director of Pavee Point, raised serious concerns over the huge difference in life expectancies between men. "This demonstrates the need for new initiatives and resources to be undertaken with us men," he added.

Health minister Mary Harney said traveller health continued to be a priority, with considerable work already undertaken in this area. "This commitment is reflected in the significant resources allocated to the commissioning of this study," Ms Harney added.

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