80% of over-50s too fat, lifestyle poll finds

By Brian Hutton - Thursday, January 30, 2014

More than a third of over-50s in Ireland are obese, a major report on ageing has revealed.

A further 44% are overweight, while problem drinking and reliance on multiple medications is also on the rise among older people.

Despite the health risks, the over-50s generally report high levels of satisfaction, with quality of life and incomes remaining stable.

The findings are revealed in the latest report by the Irish Longitudinal Studyon Ageing (Tilda), a national survey of more than 8,000 people aged 50 and over.

Participants were interviewed between Apr 2012 and Jan 2013, during a period of considerable social and economic change in Ireland, researchers noted.

Health Minister James Reilly said the report flags serious concerns about the health of the over-50s.

"I am encouraged by some of the findings in this report, particularly those that show that, in general, the over-50s enjoy a good quality of life and report their health as excellent or very good," said Dr Reilly.

"However, I am also struck by some worrying trends, particularly the levels of non-communicable diseases and their co-morbidities.

"The finding that 35% of the over-50s are obese, with a further 44% overweight is another serious cause for concern."

Obesity is strongly associated with heart disease and diabetes.

The report also found:

* About one third of the over-50s report low levels of physical activity, with more women than men reporting low exercise;

* More than half of those aged 75 and over have arthritis;

* Smoking among over-50s is down from just over 18% to 16.5% since participants were last interviewed in 2009 and 2010;

* Problem drinking has risen for both men and women — from 17% to 22% in men and from 8% to 11% in women;

* Those taking five or more medications has increased from 21% to 26%.

Prof Rose Anne Kenny, who heads the Tilda research project, said the findings gave cause for concern, particularly as Ireland’s population is ageing.

"Given current and future dramatic changes in the Irish population, with onefifth of people aged over 65 by 2060, Tilda will greatly assist new policy initiatives to address health behaviours and disease prevention so that our later life years can be healthy and independent," said Prof Kenny.

Launched in Nov 2006, Tilda tracks the health, social, and economic circumstances of 8,000 people over the age of 50 over a 10-year period.

The study — based on similar projects in Britain and the US — is being spearheaded by Trinity College Dublin with the help of researchers from the Economic and Social Research Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Cork, and Waterford Institute of Technology.

It is funded by the Department of Health, Irish Life, and the [url=AtlanticPhilanthropies]AtlanticPhilanthropies[/url].


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