Suicide rate fell by over a third in past decade

Health trends show improvement in life expectancy and high perception of good health

The suicide rate has fallen in recent years following an increase at the start of the decade, Department of Health figures show.

During the recession, suicide rates among men increased markedly, but in recent years have fallen to below the EU average.

Provisional figures for 2018 show the rate has decreased by 38 per cent since 2009. This is a drop from more than 550 deaths in 2009 to 352 last year, equivalent to 7.6 deaths per 100,000 people

While the overall mortality rate has dropped by more than 10 per cent since 2009, the health statistics show a provisional increase of 2.3 per cent between 2017 and last year.


There were significant decreases in the mortality rates from stroke, cancer and pneumonia over the last decade, according to the statistics.

Ireland still has the third-highest fertility rate in the EU – behind France and Sweden – despite a decrease in recent years, the health statistics show.

Last year there was a drop of 4.4 per cent in the number of births, and Dublin, Cork and Kilkenny had the lowest fertility rates in the country.

Chronic illness

The biggest population change in the last decade has been the increase in the cohort of people aged over 65, which grew by 35 per cent between 2010 and 2019. Overall the population grew by just over 8 per cent over the last 10 years.

Almost half of all pensioners reported to be suffering from a chronic illness or health problem in 2016, with 40 per cent of those over the age of 75 reporting a health issue limiting their day-to-day life.

The figures showed the proportion of young people between the ages of 11 and 17 engaging in “risky health behaviour” had declined between 2010 and last year.

While the health trends showed the number of people who smoke had gone down, it found alcohol consumption had gone up slightly since 2013. Last year Irish people drank on average 11 litres of alcohol per person, based on figures from Revenue.

The average amount of time people spend in hospitals has increased in recent years, bucking a previous downward trend. Between 2009 and 2017 the average length of stay in public hospital beds fell by 2.7 per cent, but 2018 saw an increase of nearly 4 per cent.

Waiting lists

Over the last year, the number of people waiting for outpatient hospital appointments increased to more than 563,000. The number of people on appointment waiting lists for more than a year had increased by 16 per cent compared to November 2018.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the figures on health trends helped to show “where things are going well and where we need to improve”.

The growth in the number of people older than 65 was one “striking feature” of the latest figures, he said.

“The number of people aged 65 and over will grow from one-fifth to more than one-third of the working population over the next two decades, which will have implications on how we fund our health services,” Mr Harris said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times