Press Release Wednesday 24th October 2018

Launch of Healthy Ireland Survey 2018

Estimated 80,000 fewer smokers
Where you live impacts your health
Binge drinking still a problem

Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne TD today launched the annual Healthy Ireland Survey, funded by the Department of Health and conducted by Ipsos MRBI.

Prevalence of smoking has dropped from 23% in 2015 to 20% in 2018 which means there are now an estimated 80,000 fewer smokers than there were three years ago. New plain packaging with health warnings was cited by 23% of smokers as a good motivation to quit. In the last 12 months 40% of smokers have made an attempt to quit.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Byrne welcomed publication of the report, saying “There are some positive and encouraging results in this year’s survey, in particular the drop in smoking rates for the second year running. However, there is also no room for complacency”.

A new focus in the 2018 survey is on the key health issues and the differences between more affluent and more deprived areas; in deprived areas 26% smoke, 43% binge drink, and 33% have long standing illnesses compared those in more affluent areas where 16% smoke, 33% binge drink, and 24% have long standing illnesses.

Minister Byrne continued ‘It is very obvious that some groups in our society still have a greater risk of poor health; we need to find better ways of reaching out to these people and helping them to live healthier lives. I have confidence that the continued development of Healthy Ireland’s work in strengthening cross government support and cross community partnerships will translate into everyone feeling that they have the same supports and chances in whatever communities they live.”

Alcohol consumption figures for 2018 show that a worrying 37% of the population binge drink i.e. consume six or more standard units in one drinking occasion.

Minister Byrne said “Successive Survey findings clearly show the problems we have with alcohol and that we drink too much alcohol. It is absolutely critical that we change the place that alcohol has in our lives and in our society. I am therefore delighted that the Public Health Alcohol Bill has now been enacted. This ground-breaking legislation should serve to ultimately reduce the harm alcohol causes.”

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 all other stakeholders working for a Healthy Ireland. The 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.”

This is the fourth summary of the findings from the survey and adds to the data collected in the previous surveys published in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The survey of over 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, oral health and health services.

A representative sample of 7,701 people aged 15 and older living in Ireland were interviewed between September 2017 and June 2018.

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.


Notes to the Editor

Main findings

• 20% are current smokers; down from 22% last year and 23% in 2015-16
• 17% are daily smokers down from 19% last year
• 44% of all who smoked in the last 12 months have attempted to quit
• 71% of the population approve of plain packaging. The survey took place ahead of the introduction of plain packaging
• 23% of smokers said that health warnings on tobacco packaging somewhat motivated them to quit

• 37% of drinkers binge drink on a typical drinking occasion
• Drinkers from more disadvantaged areas are more likely (43%) to binge drink than those from more affluent areas (33%)
• 8% of drinkers have failed to do what was expected of them as a result of drinking

Diet and Nutrition
• 15% of young people under 24 drink sugar sweetened drinks daily
• 34% of people consume at least one unhealthy food item daily
• 86% of people drink water at least once a day

General Health
• 25% reported receiving the flu vaccine during the previous winter, with 66% of over 65s receiving the vaccine.
• 66% have had their blood pressure measured during the past 12 months

Health Service Utilisation
• 74% of people have visited a GP in the past 12 months
• 8% have used a GP out of hours service
• 10% have used an emergency department in a public hospital

Oral Health
• 79% describe their oral health as very good
• 47% have visited a dentist in the past 12 months