Irish drinking well above OECD average

While alcohol consumption has declined in Ireland over the last 10 years, it still remains ‘well above' the OECD average, and obesity rates here are ‘higher than in many other European countries', according to the OECD Health Statistics 2014.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) is made up of 34 countries worldwide including Ireland. According to its latest statistics, life expectancy in Ireland is 81 years, almost one year above the OECD average of 80.2.

However, the lifestyle of many people living here remains questionable. Irish people still consume an average of 11.6 litres of alcohol per year, well above the OECD average of nine litres.

Furthermore, while obesity rates have risen in all OECD countries in recent years, there are ‘notable differences in Ireland'. The obesity rate of 23% among Irish adults, while much lower than the rate of 35% in the US, is higher than in many other European countries.

The Health Statistics 2014 also noted that this figure is based on actual measurements of people. When adults were asked to ‘self-report', the obesity figure only came in at 15%, suggesting that people are either in denial about their weight, or are simply not aware of what counts as obese.

"Obesity's growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems (such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases), and higher health care costs in the future," the OECD warned.

Meanwhile the statistics also showed that total health spending accounted for 8.9% of GDP in Ireland in 2012, less than the OECD average of 9.3%.

"Health spending as a share of GDP is much lower in Ireland than in the United States (which spent 16.9% of its GDP on health) and in a number of European countries including the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany (all allocating over 11%)," the OECD noted.

It pointed out that while health spending stagnated or fell in many countries during the recession, it is starting to rise again, although ‘the pace of growth remains well below pre-crisis rates, especially in Europe'.

In Ireland, health spending ‘was reduced sharply in 2010 and 2011 as part of government-wide efforts to reduce large budgetary deficits'.

"Most of the reductions in public spending have been achieved through cuts in wages and fees paid to professionals and pharmaceutical companies, and through reductions in the number of health workers. In 2012 (the latest figures available), health spending has started to increase again in real terms, but at a very modest rate," the OECD said.

The Health Statistics 2014 also revealed that hospital consultants earned an average of more than €170,000 last year and this excluded any private or on-call work they may have carried out. A statement from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) described these figures as 'misleading', as they do 'not provide an accurate like for like comparison and they underestimate the salaries paid to consultants in other countries'.

"The report does not include consultant salary information for the primary English speaking countries to which Irish doctors and consultants emigrate including Australia, Canada and the US," the association said.

The average income of GPs was found to be over €118,000, while the average income for nurses was over €51,000.


[Posted: Wed 02/07/2014]


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