Growing older in Ireland does not necessarily mean greater social exclusion or lower levels of well-being and satisfaction with life according to two recently published studies, reports Paul McGill, CARDI.
The studies published by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions indicate that low incomes, deprivation and unemployment are potent factors in determining how well people feel and how socially connected they believe they are. Both studies are based on the Second European Quality of Life Survey, which was carried out in 2007. However, the significantly changed economic environment since then may affect the relative position in the countries studied to the extent that it has affected them to varying degrees.
Unemployed feel most socially excluded
The first report, Living conditions, social exclusion and mental well-being
(2010)presents an index of perceived social exclusion. It shows that retired people in Ireland feel only slightly more excluded (with a score of 2.3) than employed people (2.1) or home-makers (2.2). Unemployed people in Ireland stand out from the rest with a score of 3.2.
Retired people in Ireland (2.3) feel fractionally more excluded than the average of 2.2 in the 27 EU member states but less excluded than in the UK, including Northern Ireland, where the index stands at 2.6. The highest rate is in Bulgaria (3.1) while retired people in Sweden feel the least socially excluded (1.3).
A measure of well-being, using WHO-5 scores, puts retired people in Ireland fourth out of 31 countries (the EU27 plus the three candidate countries and Norway). Its score of 67 is well ahead of the average of 59.9 and even further above the UK figure of 56.6.
People in work score highest for well-being
Within Ireland, people in work have the highest scores for well-being (69.2) followed by retired people (67), home-makers (63.8) and people who are unemployed (58.2).
Unemployed people are, therefore, most likely to feel excluded and to have a lower sense of well-being. Related to this is a table showing the index of perceived social exclusion according to one of four levels of deprivation. In Ireland the least deprived group scores 2.1 while the most deprived one is far more likely to feel socially excluded with a score of 3.2.
This score of 3.2 is the third worst of the 31 countries included in the survey and well above the average of 2.85 applying to all people in the most deprived category.
Older people express relatively high satisfaction with life
The second report based on the survey, Subjective well-being in Europe (2010)
also suggests that older people in Ireland are performing reasonably well.
People aged 65+ in Ireland have a life satisfaction score of 7.6 compared with an average EU27 figure of 7.1 for that age group. Ireland on this index is slightly worse than the UK, where the 65+ age group has a life satisfaction score of 7.8.
However, older people in Ireland score better than the other two age groups covered by the survey. Their life satisfaction score of 7.6 is higher than for 18-34 year olds (7.2) or the middle group aged 35-64 (7.1).