Over a quarter of Irish people have multiple quality-of-life problems including income poverty, poor mental health, and poor housing.
A report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) published today examines how the quality of life varies by age group and social class, using Central Statistics Office data available for 2013.
Using 11 indicators to measure different aspects of quality of life, the research found significant differences across age groups in the extent and type of problems reported.
The ESRI also found large differences in the extent of problems reported across different social classes but very little variation in the types of problems.
The 11 types of quality of life problems examined are income poverty, being unable to afford basic goods and services, financial strain, poor health, mental distress, housing quality problems, crowded accommodation, neighbourhood problems, mistrust in institutions (such as the political system, legal system and police), lack of social support and feeling unsafe in the local area.
About one-quarter of adults reported problems on at least three of the 11 indicators. Within this group, seven issues each accounted for 10% to 11% of the issues reported. These were financial strain, mental distress, health problems, neighbourhood problems, housing quality problems, deprivation and mistrust in institutions.
Crowding, income poverty, and lack of safety were somewhat less common, accounting for 6% to 8% of issues.
Lack of social support was the least commonly reported, representing just 4% of the issues reported.
Young adults, in particular, those aged under 30, were found to be most likely to experience multiple quality of life problems. Adults over 70 were least likely, according to the ESRI study. Poor health and lack of safety were more likely to be reported by older adults (over 70), with poor health accounting for 19% of the issues reported by multiple deprived adults in this age group.
Younger adults were more likely to report issues with financial strain, crowded accommodation and deprivation, each of which accounted for 11% to 13% of the issues reported by adults under 30 experiencing multiple problems.
Three issues were found to be of medium importance across all age groups.
These were housing quality problems, mental distress and mistrust in institutions which made up 9% to 12% of all issues reported. The ESRI study found that differences in the level of multiple problems by social class are even more pronounced. For example, those in the manual/lower social class were found to be 2.6 times more likely to report multiple problems than those in the professional/managerial class.
However, there is less variation across social classes in the types of problems experienced so that when people in different social classes have multiple problems, they tend to experience the same kinds of issues.
The study found that the one exception was that financial strain and income poverty tended to account for a greater proportion of the issues faced by the self-employed and farmers — 14% and 11%, compared to overall averages of 11% and 8%.
Report author Dorothy Watson said the findings highlighted the importance of considering a range of issues, in addition to income and material living standards, when measuring quality of life.
“Policies aiming to maximise quality of life should consider how numerous issues, including health and housing, are experienced differently across age groups, particularly among those who are most disadvantaged,” she said.
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