Survey shows negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic on lifestyles

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   9th Dec 2021

Survey provides valuable insight into significant impact of Covid-19 on many factors that affect heart health

More than half or 51 per cent of respondents to the Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 revealed that they drink more, smoke more, have gained weight or report a worsening of their mental health in the past 12 months showing the worrying impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the health of the nation.

The results of the Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 were launched today by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, the Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan.

The Survey represents a detailed insight of a time interval during which necessary COVID-19 restrictions had a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of the people of Ireland.

According to the Healthy Ireland Survey Report 2021,”It is clear from these results that the impact of the necessary COVID-19 restrictions on health behaviours and outcomes has been mixed in general, although for many it has had a negative impact. Overall, 51 per cent report that they are either drinking more, smoking more, have gained weight or have experienced a decline in their mental health as a result of the necessary Covid-19 restrictions.”

51 per cent report that they are either drinking more, smoking more, have gained weight or have experienced a decline in their mental health

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The report goes on to state that the impact of the necessary restrictions have perhaps been felt more strongly by younger people with 60 per cent of those aged under 25 reporting at least one of the negative health changes compared to 31 per cent of those aged 75 and older.

The report also highlights that “the negative changes in behaviour and outcomes are not sustainable and people need to be encouraged and supported in making positive changes are we emerge from the pandemic.”

Commenting on the survey Minister Donnelly said: “The annual Healthy Ireland Survey is an important snapshot into the health and wellbeing of the people of Ireland. This is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the learnings we can take from our country’s response in terms of policy and supports that will benefit the future health and wellbeing of the Irish people.”

The survey indicated that the amount of people drinking alcohol at least once a week dropped to 37 per cent from 41 per cent, and even more significantly, those who reported binge drinking (consuming more than 6 standard drinks on any one occasion), have reduced from 28 per cent of the population to 15 per cent. Another significant finding is that 84 per cent of the population (and 90 per cent of women of reproductive age), correctly identify alcohol consumption during pregnancy as unsafe.

“This survey provides valuable insight into the significant impact of Covid-19 on many factors that affect our heart health,"

Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training, The Irish Heart Foundation

Levels of smoking remain similar to those seen in previous years, with 18 per cent of the population smoking daily. Levels noted in 2019 were 17 per cent, but given the change in methodology, it is unlikely that the percentage point change is statistically significant, according to the survey.

Overall 84 per cent of those surveyed perceived their health to be “good” or “very good” with 3 per cent rating their health as “bad” or “very bad.”

More than a quarter or 28 per cent of respondents reported having a long-term illness or chronic condition that has lasted 6 months or more, with the most commonly diagnosed conditions being high blood pressure (6%), arthritis (5%), asthma (4%), diabetes (4%) and high cholesterol (3%).

Commenting Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training with The Irish Heart Foundation said, “This survey provides valuable insight into the significant impact of Covid-19 on many factors that affect our heart health. It highlights the need for support for people during Covid-19 and as we emerge from the pandemic.  It particularly suggests a need to work with those where there is a clustering of health behaviours, for example smoking and drinking alcohol. The Irish Heart Foundation provides a range of supportive information and programmes to empower people to lead healthier lives, coupled with advocating for better government policy to promote health.”

 

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