The Healthy Ireland Survey 2021

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The Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 has been published by the Department of Health showing the general well-being of people across Ireland in a number of aspects. Smoking
  • 18% of the population are current smokers, a decline of 5 percentage points since the first wave of this survey in 2015 and roughly equivalent to smoking levels in seen in 2018.
  • 16% smoke daily and 2% occasionally.
  • Smoking in 25-34 year-olds has declined by 6 percentage points to 20% since 2019.
  • 24% of 45-54 year-olds now have the highest prevalence of smoking (24%).
  • 44% of all who smoked in the last 12 months have attempted to quit.
  • 27% of those who attempted to quit in the last 12 months were successful.
  • 4% of the population have used e-cigarettes, with those aged under 25 most likely to have used them.
Alcohol Consumption
  • 66% of people have consumed alcohol in the previous 6 months, with those aged 15-24 (70%) and men (68%) most likely to do so.
  • 37% of the population aged 15 and older drink alcohol at least once a week. This compares to 41% in the previous measurement in 2018.
  • 15% of the population (22% of drinkers) binge drink on a typical drinking occasion. This compares to 28% (37% of drinkers) in 2018.
  • 84% of the population (and 90% of women of reproductive age) correctly identified drinking during pregnancy as unsafe.
Diet, Nutrition, Weight Management
  • 36% of people report consuming 2 or more unhealthy snack foods daily, with 24% consuming one unhealthy snack on a daily basis. This is broadly unchanged from the 2016 Survey (35% and 25% respectively).
  • 29% of people consume sugar sweetened drinks on a weekly basis, with 8% drinking these on a daily basis.
  • 65% of people eat fruit on a daily basis, with 75% consuming vegetables daily.
  • On average, people eat 2.9 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, with 34% eating the recommended 5 portions per day or more.
  • 35% of people report trying to lose weight.
General Health
  • 84% perceive their health to be good or very good, 3% rate their health as bad or very bad.
  • 28% of respondents report having a long-term illness or chronic condition that has lasted 6 months or more.
  • The most commonly diagnosed conditions are high blood pressure (6%), arthritis (5%), asthma (4%), diabetes (4%) and high cholesterol (3%).
Social Connectedness and the Impacts of COVID-19
  • 81% report being less socially connected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 30% reporting *42% of drinkers report that they drink less since the start of the Covid-19 restrictions, with 44% reporting that their drinking has not changed and 13% report that they are now drinking more.
  • The overall prevalence of smoking has not changed significantly since 2018-2019, however a significant minority of smokers report changes in behaviour in response to the pandemic, with 28% smoking more and 21% smoking less.
  • 29% report gaining weight during the pandemic, with 11% reporting weight loss.
  • Those reporting increases in smoking and drinking alcohol – are also more likely to report an increase in weight.
  • Almost half (49%) of those who are drinking more alcohol report that their weight has increased, as do 42% of those who are smoking more.
  • Those whose mental health has worsened are more likely to report that they are drinking and smoking more than before.
Mental Health and Suicide Awareness
  • 30% of respondents say their mental health worsened since the beginning of necessary public health restrictions in March 2020. 64% report no change, with only 5% saying their mental health has improved.
  • Among those whose mental health has worsened, 28% say it has declined “a lot”, while 71% say it has declined “a little”.
  • Negative mental health was measured using the Mental Health Index-5 (MHI-5). The average MHI-5 score in this wave is 76.0 – a decline from an average score of 81.2 in the 2016 Healthy Ireland Survey (the last time this was measured).
  • The Healthy Ireland survey has included an online module on suicide awareness, which was completed by about a third of respondents. individuals for whom suicide resonates more strongly may have been more likely to take part in this module, meaning that caution is necessary when applying the results of this part of the survey to the overall population.
  • 1 in 8 respondents report losing someone close or very close to them via suicide.
  • 6% of respondents report having attempted to take their own life at some point in the past.
GP Utilisation and Antibiotic Awareness
  • 66% report having visited a GP in the previous 12 months with an average of 3.3 visits per person among all aged 15 and older.
  • This is lower than the previous wave of this survey in 2019 which identified that 73% had visited a GP within the preceding 12 months, with an average of 4.5 visits per person.
  • The majority (60%) of GP consultations took place in the GP surgery, with 37% taking place over the phone. Other types of consultations included online video (2%) and in-home (1%).
  • 27% report taking an antibiotic in the previous 12 months.
  • 78% of respondents correctly agreed that antibiotics can kill bacteria. 65% of respondents correctly disagreed that antibiotics can kill viruses.
Making Changes
  • 42% of those who have gained weight report that they would like to control their weight or lose weight.
  • Those whose mental health has worsened are noteworthy in their desire to make changes to improve their health and wellbeing. Almost all (95%) of this group identify at least one change that they would like to make.
  • Those drinking more during periods in which necessary public health restrictions were in place – the majority did not identify a need to reduce their alcohol consumption to improve their health and wellbeing.
  • Depending on the extent of consumption increase, this is likely to be of concern.

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