Press Release

Minister Catherine Byrne launches third annual Healthy Ireland Survey

Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne, today launched the report of the third annual Healthy Ireland Survey.

The Survey of 7,500 people aged 15 and over living in Ireland gives an up-to-date picture of the health of the nation and reports on many lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and sexual health. The 2017 Survey also looked at public attitudes and understanding on topics such as breastfeeding and antibiotic use.

Also in this report, data from three waves have been combined to look at health behaviours among young people aged 15 to 24 years.

Some key findings in this year’s Survey include:

  • 22% of the population are current smokers – a drop from 23% last year
  • 39% are overweight and 23% are obese
  • 19% of drinkers indicate that during the past 12 months they have had feelings of guilt or remorse after drinking
  • 35% of all ages eat at least one unhealthy food (sweets, cakes and biscuits, salted snacks, pastries, fried foods) every day
  • One in six people (16%) drink sugar sweetened drinks on a daily basis
  • 21% have had a HIV test and 22% a STI test during their lifetime
  • Nearly half (49%) of those with children said one of their children was breast fed
  • Breastfeeding differs by education: three quarters (74%) with a third level degree compared to a third (34%) of those who left school before Leaving Cert said one of their children was breast fed
  • 39% were prescribed antibiotics in the previous 12 months
  • 68% correctly agree that antibiotics can kill bacteria; however 49% think antibiotics kill viruses
  • Using data on 15 to 24 year olds from three survey waves:
  • 19% are smokers
  • 53% binge drink
  • 30% are overweight

Speaking at the launch, Minister Byrne welcomed publication of the report, saying “The findings in the third Healthy Ireland Survey add to the valuable information we already have about key lifestyle issues affecting people living in Ireland. While there are some positive results, such as the drop in smoking rate, it is also clear that there is no room for complacency. It is very obvious that some groups in our society still have a greater risk of poor health and we continue to see differences between people who have different education levels or who live in poorer or more well-off areas. The solutions to this are broader than health service issues and require response from all of government and all of society. And that’s the fundamental principle underlying the Healthy Ireland initiative”

The Minister continued: “The Survey findings clearly show the problems we have with alcohol and that we drink too much alcohol.  I am particularly concerned about the finding that over half of all young drinkers binge drink on a typical drinking occasion, which is a significant threat to their health both now and in the longer term. It is absolutely critical that we change the place that alcohol has in our lives and our society, which is the aim of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.”

Some of the other important findings include:

  • 84% of people living in Ireland say their health is very good or good although 30% indicate that they have a long-standing illness or health condition
  • 18% mainly use an active form of travel on their usual journey to work or education, with 31% using this form of travel at least occasionally; however almost two-thirds (65%) travelling to work or education mainly travel by car
  • 8% have made a change in mode of travel in past two years, with half of those now walking or cycling at least occasionally
  • 39% of drinkers indicate that they drink six or more standard drinks (“binge drinking”) on a typical drinking occasion
  • 73% eat fewer than five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
  • In the previous year, 12% of young adults (under 35) and 12% of men who have sex with men have had a HIV or STI test
  • 15% have visited an emergency department in the past 12 months, rising to 22% of those aged 75 and older
  • 1% of those not prescribed an antibiotic in the past 12 months have consumed one

Kate O’Flaherty, Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health commented that “The data from this Survey are a very valuable asset to assist the Department of Health and our other partners working for a Healthy Ireland.  Researchers in the HSE and academic organisations are using the data to look at particular themes such as social inequalities in obesity and smoking rates, and to examine the links between positive health behaviours and mental wellbeing. In addition, Healthy Ireland Survey findings will help us to better measure risk factor trends over time and the impact that policy implementation is having on supporting people to make healthier choices.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

The Healthy Ireland Survey is conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of the Department of Health.

This Report is a summary of the findings from the third wave of the survey and adds to the data collected in the previous two waves published in 2015 and 2016.

The third Healthy Ireland Survey consisted of 7,487 interviews conducted with a representative sample of the population aged 15 and older living in Ireland. Survey fieldwork was conducted between September 2016 and June 2017.

The data from Healthy Ireland Surveys are being used to underpin policy development and implementation, to monitor, measure and evaluate progress in implementing various elements of the Healthy Ireland Framework, as well as to meet many international reporting obligations, including to the OECD, the EU and the WHO.