Where we live can have a significant bearing on our health, with those in deprived areas more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as binge drinking and smoking, according to a new report.
Healthy Ireland Survey 2018, published today, shows positive health is not evenly distributed throughout the population and that the typical pattern “is one of higher risk health behaviours” in deprived areas. It shows one third living in deprived areas have a long-standing illness compared to under a quarter in affluent areas.
Women living in deprived areas are more likely than those in affluent areas to continue smoking and binge drinking (six or more standard drinks) into their 50s, while men aged 55-64 are 2.5 times more likely to smoke than their peers in affluent areas.
Across both genders, the report found:
- The percentage of smokers in deprived areas is 10 percentage points higher (26% v 16%)
- Percentage engaging in binge drinking is five points higher (31% v 26%)
- Those in deprived areas are less likely to visit the dentist but make more visits to the GP
In more general terms, the report found men have a more lax attitude towards their health, with higher levels of binge drinking and smoking, higher consumption of sugary drinks and less likelihood of getting the flu vaccine than women.
The survey shows some inroads in cutting smoker numbers, from 23% in 2015 to 20% in 2018. It also shows plain packaging of tobacco products has been well received, with 71% of the population and 62% of smokers giving it the thumbs up.
Almost a quarter (23%) of smokers say health warnings on tobacco packaging have made them “at least somewhat more likely to quit smoking”. Some 42% who have successfully quit in the past year did so through willpower alone, and 41% used e-cigarettes. Just 4% currently use e-cigarettes.
Smokers are more prone to sugary drinks and to binge drinking, with 54% of drinkers who also smoke binge drinking on a typical drinking occasion, compared to 33% of non-smokers who drink.
Almost two in five (37%) of drinkers report that they binge drink on a typical drinking occasion, rising to 50% among drinkers aged under 35.
The survey, based on 7,701 interviews of those aged 15+, found less than half the population (46%) have their own teeth; 10% have visited an emergency department in a public hospital in the past year and just 2% have gone to an ED in a private hospital.
The report says while we can all make choices to improve our health “our ability to do so can be affected by the circumstances in which we are born, where we live, our level of education or whether or not we are in employment.”
It says the Government’s Healthy Ireland framework “seeks to reduce the inequalities that exist”.