One in three births outside marriage - report

 

More than 30 per cent of babies born in the State in 2001 were born outside of marriage, according to figures from the Department of Health and Children.

Birth numbers in general have continued to rise to maintain the Republic's longstanding tradition as Europe's leader in the birth numbers and fertility rates.

Maternal mortality rates are significantly lower than the EU average. Of 100,000 live births in the year 2000 the maternal mortality rate was 1.8 per cent, with the EU average standing at 5.5 per cent.

Females can also expect to outlive their male counterparts by about five-and-a-half years, although the gap is thought to be closing.

Alcohol consumption has continued to increase further with the figures showing Ireland had the second-highest consumption of alcohol in the EU in 1999, beaten only by Luxembourg.

But smoking is believed to be on the decrease, with figures indicating that 28 per cent of people over 15 were regular smokers in 2002, a reduction of 3 per cent on 1998.

Similarly encouraging news is that of Ireland's position as the country with the second-lowest number of HIV/AIDS cases. Both cases and deaths have dropped significantly since 1997.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) immunisation rates, however, show an decrease from 77 per cent in 1999 to 73 per cent in 2001, although rates vary considerably between Health Boards and Regional Authorities.

"Perceived health" is another area in which Ireland has outdone its European neighbours. In a survey conducted on persons of 16 years and older, 81 per cent deemed their health "good or very good" whereas a mere 4 per cent regarded their health as "bad or very bad".

The European average of perceived "good health" stands at 61 per cent, with Portugal propping up the table on 53 per cent.