Irish among top global smokers and drinkers

Irish among top global smokers and drinkers

Latest figures from the OECD show Ireland has one of the highest rates of smoking, and drinking, with above-average rates of obesity among adults.

29% of the population aged over 15 smoke, with only Greece, Chile and the Russian Federation ahead of us. By comparison, our nearest neighbour in the UK has only 19.6% of its adults smoking. The average for the OECD 34 nations is 20.9%.


Ireland also comes sixth in the list of 34 countries for litres of alcohol consumed each year - at 11.6 litres per person for everyone over 15 years of age – an increase of 4% since 1990. The data shows that Ireland's alcohol consumption actually peaked in the early 2000s at close to 15% before falling in recent years.

Countries who consume more alcohol per person are limited to Germany (11.7), Estonia (12), Austria (12.2), France (12.6) - and Luxembourg, whose figures are likely inaccurate due to a small population and large number of foreign visitors.


The OECD report, Health at a Glance, also showed Ireland had higher levels of obesity, at 23% among the adult population, than the average: far behind the United State's 36.5%, and lower than the UK's 24.8%. The slimmest European nations were Switzerland (8.1%), Norway and Italy (10% each).

Obesity in children at age 15, however, was below the average, as was smoking. Drunkenness among 15-year-old was in line with the OECD average.


Ireland's mortality rates for certain diseases continue to fall. In the past two decades, mortality due to cancer fell by 21%, heart disease by 59%, and cerebrovascular disease by 54% – all well ahead of the average change.

We can also expect to live longer, with life expectancy up by four years since 2000 to 80.6 years each today (the average is 80.1).

The OECD warned, however, that despite the gains, our heart disease and cancer mortality rates remain quite high, and "further gains can be made."

The group called for investment in prevention measures, including an attempt to cut our high levels of smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption.

Health spending

The group also noted that our health spending has fallen 6.6% since 2009, compared to a 7% increase between 2000 – 2009. The only country to see a greater fall in health expenditure was Greece (-11.1%).

Ireland's large expenditure on pharmaceuticals was also singled out for attention.

"Despite recent cuts, Irish expenditure on pharmaceuticals remains high and well above the OECD average on a per capita basis," the report said.

"In part, this can be explained by the low use of generic medications, which in 2011 accounted for only 18% of the total volume of pharmaceuticals prescribed in Ireland. In Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Denmark, generics represent more than 70% of the market."

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