Back pain most commonly reported chronic health condition

More than half report being overweight or obese; 80% drink alcohol at least once a week

Back pain was the most commonly reported chronic health condition in the first Irish Health Survey by the Central Statistics Office.

More than 30 per cent of the population said they had a long standing illness or health condition and almost one in five of these reported chronic back pain, followed by high blood pressure, 16 per cent, and allergies, 14 per cent.

More than 80 per cent of the population say their health is good or very good. Among people from affluent areas, the figure was almost 90 per cent, compared to 75 per cent of those in very disadvantaged areas.

And people at work were also more likely to report good health; 92 per cent, compared to 84 per cent of those unemployed, and 70 per cent of those categorised as economically inactive.


The self-reported survey also found more than 80 per cent of the population drink alcohol. And at least once a week, 16 per cent of the population binge drink, consuming six or more drinks in one session.

But while more people from affluent areas report drinking alcohol, 88 per cent, fewer reported binge drinking; 15 per cent compared to 20 per cent of people from disadvantaged areas.

More than a fifth of the population reported smoking and more than half are either overweight or obese.

Almost 8 per cent of the population reported symptoms of at least moderate depression in the two weeks prior to interview, carried out in 2015. Across all age groups, more women reported moderate or severe depression than men. And 30 per cent of people with disabilities reported it.

In terms of location, the lowest rate of moderate or severe depression was among people in the West, at 5 per cent, while people in Dublin and the Border area reported the highest rate, at 9 per cent.

One in 10 younger people, aged 15-24 years, reported visiting a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist in the previous 12 months.

Almost three quarters of the population had visited their GP in the previous 12 months, but more women, 80 per cent, had visited, compared to men, at 67 per cent.

Almost one quarter said they had been absent from work for at least a day due to ill health. And some 12 per cent of the population reported having a disability.

One in 10 of the population were providing care to someone with a chronic health condition or an infirmity due to old age, and the vast majority, 86 per cent, of these were caring for a family member. The average number of hours spent providing care was almost 45 per week.

The figures were based on responses from more than 10,000 people aged 15 or over, selected by the CSO using data from the Quarterly National Household Survey. The information collected will allow for comparisons with other countries in the EU, through the use of a consistent methodology, the CSO has said.

Commenting on the release, statistician Damien Lenihan said it provided a comprehensive picture of self-reported health in Ireland.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist