More than 10,000 households to be surveyed on mental and physical health

More than 10,000 Irish households are to be surveyed to find out just how healthy the nation is, mentally and physically, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The Healthy Ireland survey is the first for seven years and will start in the coming weeks.

The department and Healthy Ireland said the households to be surveyed have been randomly selected and they hope the results will be available by May 2015.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MRBI, will look at a number of key health indicators including:

-Nutrition;

-Alcohol consumption;

-Smoking;

-Level of physical activity;

-Weight management;

-Wellbeing.

“If we are going to help people to stay healthy, we need to have an idea of how healthy they are,” said Health Minister Leo Varadkar. “So this new survey will be really useful in making sure that the right policies are in place. It will also tell us what areas we need to focus on in future.

“The Healthy Ireland initiative was set up to improve the nation’s physical and mental health. We haven’t had a comprehensive survey since 2007, and there have been huge changes since then. On the one hand, more people are more aware of the importance of diet, lifestyle, health, wellbeing and mental fitness. But as a nation, we now face even bigger challenges on obesity, stress, diet, and many other areas. So there’s a big job ahead of us.”

He said the results of the survey would give his department a “baseline” set of data, telling it how healthy or unhealthy Ireland is.

“We can then use future surveys to assess whether or not our policies are working,” he said.

Kate O’Flaherty, director of the health and wellbeing programme in the department, said households selected will receive letters inviting them to take part in the survey and she moved to assure people that the data collected will remain confidential at all times.

The survey SLÁN 2007 found half of the more than 10,000 adults questioned said they ate the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. However, one in three either always or usually added salt to food at the table and half reported snacking between meals, most commonly on biscuits and cakes.

At that point, slightly less than one in three people smoked, with higher rates among young people. Almost half of male smokers reported attempting to quit within the previous year.

Younger men reported higher levels of physical activity, reducing with increasing age. Those who were physically inactive gave their main reason as “no time”.


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