Census 2022: overall health levels drop after pandemic, while caring duties increase

Over 1.1 million people - 22 per cent of population - have some form of disability, according to data

Illustration: Paul Scott

Irish people feel they have grown less healthy while their care duties have increased massively, according to health and related data released from Census 2022.

Traditionally, the State tends to come out top in international surveys on the health of citizens, but the census results released show a drop in the proportion of people saying they are in good health.

The percentage of people reporting their general health status as either very good or good decreased from 87 per cent in 2016 to 83 per cent last year. The exception was among over-75s, who reported a small increase in the proportion reporting very good health.

The reduction is most likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its knock-on effects since 2020.


More than 1.1 million people in Ireland - 22 per cent of the population - say they have some form of disability, according to the data. This includes 407,342 people who reported experiencing at least one long-lasting condition or difficulty “to a great extent or a lot”. Women were more likely than men to have a disability.

The proportion of people with a disability generally increased with age - from 4 per cent of children aged under five to 76 per cent among those aged over 85.

The percentage of people experiencing a long-standing condition or difficulty increases sharply after age 74. Among those aged 85 and over, just under half were in this category.

Cork city and Wexford recorded the highest proportion of people with a long-lasting condition or difficulty, at 24 per cent; this compares to 19 per cent in Fingal and Monaghan.

There has been a massive increase in the number of people providing unpaid care, and especially full-time care, since the last census. The number of unpaid carers has increased by 53 per cent, to almost 300,000. Almost 87,000 of these were providing at least 43 hours of care a week, up 111 per cent on 2016′s figures.

The amount of care provided increased across all age group, but people in their 50s were mostly likely to be providing regular unpaid care. Mayo had the highest proportion of unpaid carers, at 7 per cent; Dublin City had the lowest, at 5 per cent.

More than 700,000 Irish people volunteer regularly without pay, according to the census.

Men were more likely to volunteer in sports organisations while women were more likely to volunteer in their community.

Meanwhile, 13 per cent of the population smoke either daily or occasionally, according to the first ever questions on the topic in a census. Almost one million people (974,145) say they have given up smoking, while 3.1 million say they never smoked. That leaves nearly 450,000 people who smoke daily and a further 226,500 who smoke occasionally.

Smoking rates were higher among men (15 per cent) than women (11 per cent). People in their 20s and 30s smoke the most; while among 15- to 19 year-olds, 6 per cent smoke.

Smokers and former smokers were less likely to report good health than the population generally and people who never smoked; more than 90 per cent of people who never smoked reported very good or good general health, compared to 79 per cent of daily smokers.

One in three children aged under 15 were in childcare last year. The most common type were creche-type facilities, followed by care provided by an unpaid relative. Younger children were most likely to be in creches but with age care by relatives became most common.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times