Republic of Ireland’s older people have one of the best life expectancies in Europe but is it a healthy future?
- Republic of Ireland
Life expectancy at birth in Republic of Ireland is well above the EU average yet 79% of the older population is either overweight or obese. CARDI’s Janet Harkin looks at two recently published reports and what they tell us about ageing in Ireland.
Ireland’s men can expect to live to over 78 years of age, nearly two years above the EU average, according to recent figures released by Central Statistics Office in ‘Measuring Ireland’s Progress 2012’. Ireland’s women can expect to live longer nearly half a year longer, to 83 years of age. These strong numbers are also accompanied by a significant increase in healthcare spend of 15% per person since 2002.
Many older Irish people say they enjoy better health too, says TILDA in its second key findings report, titled 'The Over 50s in a Changing Ireland:Economic Circumstances, Health and Well-Being', which was published this week. The proportion of the older population who report that their health is ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ has increased from 41% in wave 1 in 2010 to 44% in wave 2 in 2012.
However, TILDA’s statistics also reveal that a huge majority (79%) of older Irish adults are now classified as obese or overweight according to their body mass index. In addition, there is increasing use of alcohol and prescription medications. On the bright side, smoking is decreasing.
There is a much lower rate of ‘at risk of poverty’ among older people than there is among the general population, according to CSO. Yet, whilst the income of older people has remained steady, the income of their children has declined, reveals TILDA, and there were high rates of emigration among children of the survey respondents.
The data from TILDA’s survey says that quality of life peaks at around 65 to 67 years and declines rapidly after the age of 80. Those participants reporting the best quality of life are typically married, have no every day disability, have no depressive symptoms, have strong social networks, have active social relationships, volunteer regularly and look after grandchildren.
Perhaps most interestingly, the statistics from CSO’s Measuring Ireland’s Progress 2012 report highlight just how young Ireland’s population is compared to the rest of the EU. Its population is increasing at the third highest rate in the EU and it has the highest proportion of young people and the second lowest proportion of older people in the EU. And there is no sign of this trend changing as Ireland enjoys the highest fertility rate and the second lowest divorce rate in the EU.
Ireland’s population is ageing much more slowly than the rest of the EU which means it is well placed to learn from other countries like Italy and Germany as they adjust to the economic, environmental and social changes driven by an older population.