Home > Health in Ireland: key trends 2015.

Pike, Brigid (2016) Health in Ireland: key trends 2015. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 57, Spring 2016, pp. 13-15.

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Published by the Department of Health, this booklet provides summary statistics on health and health care in Ireland over the past 10 years.1 The data are organised in six chapters ranging from population, life expectancy and health status to health care delivery, staffing and costs. In the Introduction, the authors comment:


In the area of health determinants, lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, levels of physical activity and obesity continue to be issues which have the potential to jeopardise many of the health gains achieved in recent years. Furthermore, inequalities in health are closely linked with wider social determinants including living and working conditions, issues of service access, and cultural and physical environments. Taken together with an ageing population, adverse trends, if not addressed now, will lead to an unhealthy and costly future.


Alcohol and smoking

Figure 1 shows overall trends in alcohol and cigarette consumption over the last 20 years. Having levelled off over the last few years, the data for alcohol show an increase in consumption in 2014, following a drop in 2013. With respect to cigarettes, the declining figures based on excise duty data need to be treated with caution owing to the effects of cross-border and illegal sales.


Figure 2 shows the percentage of adults who are daily smokers or are overweight and obese by their educational attainment. In both cases, the rates of daily smoking and persons classified as overweight and obese are lower among those who attained a tertiary-level qualification.


The number of people who drink more than six standard units of alcohol at least once a month, broken down by gender and social class, can be seen in Figure 3. It shows that men and those in the lower social group are more likely to engage in risky single-occasion drinking at least once per month.


The results of the Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey 2014, when compared to the HBSC survey of four years earlier, show that the proportion of Irish children aged 10–17 years who are current smokers or who have ever been really drunk have both declined over the four year period (Figure 4). A review of the trend in the level of lifetime drunkenness among Irish school-aged children between 1998 and 2014 shows that it decreased over the 20-year period and most markedly among 13–15-year-olds.2 This overall trend is welcome, especially among younger teenagers, as the immaturity of their brains makes them particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol. Delaying initiation of drinking also decreases the likelihood of developing alcohol dependence in later life.



Treatment for problem drug use

Between 2005 and 2014 the number of cases treated for problem drug use in Ireland increased almost 52 per cent (Table 1). The number of new entrants into treatment also increased, but by a larger proportion (70%). The authors of the most recent bulletin on NDTRS and CTL data on treated problem drug use,3 which revealed a similar 52 per cent increase between 2005 and 2010, commented that the ‘clear spread and increase in treated drug use throughout the country’ reflected ‘not only the extent of problem drug use but also an increase in treatment availability and compliance with the NDTRS’, an observation which is still pertinent today.



1 Department of Health (2015) Health in Ireland: key trends 2015. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/24955/

2 Mongan D (2016) Health behaviour in school-aged children Drugnet Ireland (56) 14–16. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25144/

3 Bellerose D, Carew AM and Lyons S (2011) Trends in treated problem drug use in Ireland 2005–2010. HRB Trends Series 12. Dublin: Health Research Board. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16381/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Alcohol, Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Screening / Assessment
Issue Title
Issue 57, Spring 2016
May 2016
Page Range
pp. 13-15
Health Research Board
Issue 57, Spring 2016

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