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Maybe we're not as healthy as we think
[Posted: Tue 01/12/2009 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
The life expectancy of Irish people is now higher than the EU average, according to new statistics from the Department of Health.
In addition, our birth numbers, at over 75,000 a year, are at their highest level since the foundation of the State.
The statistical overview shows that there has been a massive increase in health funding and employment, hospital activity and prescription drug-dispensing in recent years, with improvements in mortality rates but underlying problems with obesity and chronic illness.
The report also shows that disease statistics appear to contradict how healthy we rate outselves as being.
The Department's report: Health in Ireland-Key Trends 2009, shows that Ireland has recently gone from a position of nearly one year below the EU average life expectancy to almost one year above it. Our current overall life expectancy for men and women is 79 years - 76.8 for men and 81.6 for women.
The report says it is difficult to measure what proportion of this improvement may be attributable to better health services, but it is at least indicative that much of the gain has been due to significant reductions in causes of deaths from circulatory system diseases, which would lead to heart attacks and strokes.
In the space of just 10 years, almost four additional years have been added to life expectancy in Ireland.
Our birth numbers are now at over 75,000 a year and our fertility rate is the highest in the EU.
However this good news is tempered by statistics that show that there are significant chronic health problems in older age groups in Ireland.
Nearly 55% of men over 65 and around 59% of women in the same age group suffer from chronic illnesses or conditions.
In addition, 14% of men and 16% of women say their activities are strongly limited due to health problems, with just under 30% of both sexes in this age group saying their activities are limited due to their health conditions.
Only around 18% of men and women over 65 perceive their health status as being very good, with just under 40% of both sexes in this age group stating that their health status is fair to very bad.
Among all age groups, 83.9% of all men and women rate their health as being good or very good, according to the report.
However, the report also shows that 10% of all adults have been diagnosed at some point with high blood pressure, and 59% of men and 41% of women self-reported as being overweight or obese. There has been an increase of around one-third in obesity levels since the late 1990s.
Between 1999 and 2008, death rates from cancer fell overall, especially death rates from breast cancer.
However, the figures show an increase in breast cancer deaths from 624 to 731 between 2007 and 2008.§
Alcohol consumption in Ireland has declined from a peak reached in 2001 and has levelled off in recent years.
Tobacco consumption has also declined in the years since the introduction of the smoking ban, although consumption has been stubbornly constant in recent years.
Suicide overtook motor vehicle accidents as the principal cause of death in the mid-1990s, according to the report. Suicide rates more than tripled between 1970 and 1998 but have remained at around 19 deaths per 100,000 population over the past decade.
Suicide and road accident mortaliry both disproportionately affect the young, according to the report.
The report also notes a major increase in acute hospital activity, with a 16% increase in in-patient discharges since 1999 and a 148% increase in day case numbers in hospitals.
Improved and less invasive medical practice is largely responsible for the rapid growth in day case treatment, the Department says.
The report shows that 69% of adults had at least one GP visit in the 12 months prior to being interviewed fo the survey. The number of prescription items dispensed in the medical card scheme more than doubled, from just over 20,000 in 1998 to nearly 45,000 in 2007.
The percentage of the populaiton with medical cards remained practically static during that period. Numbers of people with medical cards increased from 1.164 million in 1999 to 1.352 million in 2008.
Spending on primary, community and continuing care has risen by 37% since 2005.
The report shows that total public health expenditure has risen from €5.7 billion in 2000 to over €15.2 billion in 2008. Ireland's total health expenditure as a percentage of gross national income was 8.9% in 2007, ranking midway in a list of OECD countries.
In addition, employment in the health service jumped by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2009, although the total numbers employed has reduced since 2007.
Health and social care professionals was the group that saw the largest rise in job numbers in that period - a increase of around 110%. There was a 49% increase in junior doctor numbers since 2000.
The statistics also show that the number of people over the age of 65 is projected to almost double between now and 2026, and almost triple by 2041.
According to Health Minister Mary Harney, the growing and ageing population amidst current economic constraints represents a major challenge, but also give a focus to efforts to consolidate health gains and improve the efficiency, effectiveness and equity of our health services.
View the full report here
|Anonymous Posted: 07/12/2009 10:13|
The 69% who had had a GP visit in the preceding year - apart from say, obviosu things liek women needing to be dispensed the pill, which is not an illness per say, it would be interestign to see if these visits were due to health screening, health maintenance (long term perscriptions) or illness.
|Viking Posted: 07/12/2009 11:40|
"our fertility rate is the highest in the EU"
How is "fertility" defined?
Slap me on the wrist if you like, but I can't help wondering if this has anything to do with a certain portion of our society doing pretty well out of having children??
|Anonymous Posted: 07/12/2009 13:52|
fertility is defined by the birth rate, as far as I know Viking. It doesn.t take into account the number of people with diagnosed fertility problems or difficulty in conceiving.
|Viking Posted: 08/12/2009 10:03|
Thanks for that Anonymous - it proves my point - I'm sure our "fertility" rate would drop if having children wasn't such a lucrative business!
Can't help but be a little nervous in light of the impending budget.....
|Anonymous Posted: 08/12/2009 14:20|
Indeed Viking I am nervous myself.
However, having had 3 of my own (now since grown up) I would love to know how having children could be anything other than a very expensive undertaking - even back when I was rearing them - emotionally rewarding and all as it is.
|Viking Posted: 09/12/2009 09:34|
Anonymous, Ok, I'll just come out and say it! There is a portion of our society who because they are "single" parents, get a free house and a fairly substantial whack of tax payers money every month. The more kids they have, the more they get. And most of them are living with their partners, even though they're supposed to be single.
Don't get me started......I'm busting a gut to keep my job and pay my taxes, and I'm paying someone else to raise my children.
|Anonymous Posted: 09/12/2009 15:42|
Viking, I can tell you from personal experience of nieces of my husbands' that they certainly don't get a free house. They get rental allowance - as would any unemployed person in order to keep them from living on the streets and yes they get lone parents allowance - which wouldn't body and soul together not to mind a couple of kids. I presume you wouldn't see them living on the streets or their children neglected. If they're not lone parents i.e. living with partners, then they're not entitled to the allowance and the dept of social welfare as well as lone parents can tell you that those checks are extremely rigourous.
I think most people are in your situation - busting a gut to keep a job, pay a mortgage and childcare.
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