Number of smokers in Ireland has fallen

However excess weight still a major issue
  • Deborah Condon

The number of smokers in Ireland has fallen from 23% in 2015 to 17% this year, the annual Healthy Ireland (HI) survey has revealed.

According to the findings, this means there are now an estimated 165,000 fewer smokers than there were five year ago. Furthermore, 40% of current smokers have attempted to quit the habit in the last year.

Some 19% of parents of children under the age of 18 smoke - 21% of fathers and 17% of mothers. However, 33% of parents who smoke are either trying to quit or are actively planning to do so.

Overall, smoking rates remain highest among those aged between 25 and 34, and are also higher among people who are unemployed and have no third level education.

When it comes to tobacco packaging, 52% of smokers said that the warning picture is the first thing they notice when they look at a cigarette pack, while 25% have said that health warnings on tobacco packaging have made them more motivated to quit.

Meanwhile, 5% of the population use e-cigarettes, while a further 12% have tried them at some point.

The survey also looked at the weight of the nation and found that just 37% of those over the age of 15 are a normal weight. Some 37% are overweight and 23% are obese.

Overall, men are more likely than women to be overweight and obese and the proportion of people with a normal weight declines with age. For example, 65% of those aged between 15 and 24 have a normal weight, but among those aged 65 and older, just 26% have a normal weight.

Some 34% of people in Ireland are currently trying to lose weight, with the most common weight loss actions including exercising, consuming fewer calories and consuming less sugar-sweetened products.

Some 17% of those who are overweight or obese are also smokers, which significantly increases their future risk of health problems.

The survey also looked at physical activity and found that only 46% of people are achieving the minimum level of recommended physical activity, which is being moderately active for at least 150 minutes per week. That is equivalent to 30 minutes per day, five days a week.

The key barriers to increased activity were given as time restrictions due to work, studying or looking after family.

Other key findings in the survey included:
-9% of people provide unpaid care to a family member or friend and one in 10 carers provide care to multiple people. Almost half of carers have a long-standing illness or health problem themselves

-People get an average of 7.1 hours of sleep per night, although those in paid employment, those engaged with home duties and those who are overweight or obese tend to get less sleep

-73% of people have visited a GP in the last 12 months. Almost half of those who visited a GP did not have to pay (most of these had a medical card), while 26% said they had to pay in excess of €50 their consultation. Some 16% of people said that there was a time in the last year when they needed to visit a GP, but did not do so. Not having the time to visit and costs were two of the reasons given for this.

"This is the fifth wave of the Healthy Ireland survey, so we now have a valuable flow of up-to-date data and information about the health of the nation. This is a very valuable asset to help the Department of Health and our many Healthy Ireland partners to monitor the progress and impact of our collective work to improve health and wellbeing outcomes," commented Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health.

This latest HI survey was based on interviews with 7,413 people aged 15 and older throughout Ireland. A summary report of the survey can be viewed here.


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