Smoking rates down but more needed to tackle obesity

By June Shannon Policy News   |   20th Nov 2019

The 2019 Healthy Ireland Survey finds that 60 per cent of people are overweight or obese

The Irish Heart Foundation has welcomed the continued reduction in the smoking rate outlined in the 2019 Healthy Ireland Survey however, it called for a more radical approach to tackling the rate of overweight and obesity which, according to the survey, now stands at 60 per cent.

Launched today (Wednesday 20 November 2019), this is the fifth summary of the findings from the Healthy Ireland Survey which provides a snapshot of the health of the nation by surveying 7,413 people aged 15 and older living in Ireland. All participants were interviewed between September 2018 and September 2019.

The survey, which reports on a number of lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, physical health and use of health services, found that 17 per cent of the population are current smokers down from 23 per cent in 2015.

Smoking rates remain highest among those aged 25 to 34 with 26 per cent of this age group reporting to be smokers, although this has declined from 32 per cent in 2015. Smoking rates are higher in more deprived areas (24%) than in more affluent areas (14%), the survey found.

Commenting Mr Chris Macey Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “the continuing reduction in the smoking rate is greatly welcomed. However, we still have in the region of 700,000 smokers in Ireland and we can do a lot more to help for the 80 per cent or so who want to quit. Less than €12 million a year is spent on smoking cessation measures in Ireland, which is pathetic when you consider that the annual cost of smoking to the State is over €1.6 billion. To achieve the Government’s target of a tobacco free Ireland, we need to ramp up the help we give smokers, including through major investment in smoking cessation services, the national Quitline, mass media campaigns and proven medications.”

" The continuing reduction in the smoking rate is greatly welcomed. However, we still have in the region of 700,000 smokers in Ireland and we can do a lot more to help for the 80 per cent or so who want to quit, "

Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , Irish Heart Foundation

The 2019 Healthy Ireland survey also found that 37 per cent of people are overweight and 23 per cent are obese meaning that more than half or 60 per cent of the population in Ireland is now overweight or obese.

While men are more likely than women to be overweight or obese (66% and 55% respectively), there has been a decline in the proportion of men that are overweight or obese (from 70% in 2017 to 66% in 2019).

The survey found that while the proportion of people with a normal weight declines with age, the proportion that is overweight or obese increases with age.

According to the survey, “among those aged between 15 and 24, 65 per cent have a normal weight and 28 per cent are overweight or obese. However, among those aged 65 and older, 26 per cent have a normal weight and 74 per cent are overweight or obese.”

In common with other studies this survey found that those living in deprived areas are more likely than those living in affluent areas to be overweight or obese (65% and 55% respectively). Among those aged under 35, 50 per cent of those living in deprived areas are overweight or obese, compared to 37 per cent of those living in affluent areas.

" These statistics demonstrate yet again the necessity for a more radical approach to tackling the obesity crisis that must be targeted at children in particular,"

Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Mr Macey said, “these statistics demonstrate yet again the necessity for a more radical approach to tackling the obesity crisis that must be targeted at children in particular. The Government’s current target is to reduce the obesity rate among children by half a per cent a year to 2025. The Irish Heart Foundation believes that by implementing a more ambitious agenda, including banning junk food marketing to children, mandatory programmes to reduce the saturated fat, sugar, salt and calorie content of unhealthy foods and removing the junk from in and around schools the childhood obesity rate can be halved within a decade.”

In relation to chronic conditions, the 2019 Healthy Ireland survey revealed that much like other years, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both major risk factors for heart disease and stroke, were once again most common reported conditions.

According to the survey, “respondents were asked about 25 specific conditions and whether they had suffered from them in the past 12 months. The most commonly reported conditions were high blood pressure (13%), high cholesterol (10%), arthritis (10%), asthma (7%) and emotional, nervous or psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety (6%). Self-reported incidences of these conditions are broadly unchanged across survey waves.”

For information on ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke please see here

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Healthy Ireland heart disease high blood pressure high cholesterol HSE Obesity quit smoking smoking stroke

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