Almost two thirds of over 50s have high blood pressure

Long-term study finds forced retirement has negative effect on over-50s mental health

Perceptions of ageing are said to have a significant influence on health and quality of life

Perceptions of ageing are said to have a significant influence on health and quality of life


One in five adults aged 65-74 do voluntary work daily or weekly, but forced retirement has a negative effect on their mental health, according to the findings of a major report.

Uncovering the Secrets of Successful Ageing is an analysis by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) of 10 years of its study of older people. Its findings, to be published on Thursday, include health, social, and economic factors.

The report says that involuntary or forced retirement has a “negative effect” on mental health, but there is “no relationship between retirement and mental health” for those who retire voluntarily. Additionally, the report says retirement due to ill-health negatively affects mental health.

The findings suggest that when retirement is involuntary or due to ill-health, any benefit that might arise from reduced work stress is outweighed by factors such as a loss of social connectedness or other work-related positives.

For people who retire voluntarily, the absence of a mental health gain suggests this “cannot be used in any effort to entice people to delay retirement”. Instead, “more standard economic incentives” may be required, such as actuarially adjusted pension entitlements.

It also says there is a need for increased information to be directed at certain groups in relation to pension entitlements, citing women and less educated people in particular.

There is “limited knowledge” among older people about pension entitlements, with 66 per cent enrolled in pension schemes unaware of the form or the amount to be paid out on retirement. The same is said to be true of half of defined benefit pension members.

Separately, the report says half of all over 50s had volunteered in the last year, while one in five adults aged 65-74 do voluntary work daily or weekly. This represents “a very high level of voluntary engagement”.

For both men and women, those who volunteered at least once a year had a higher quality of life compared with those who never volunteered. Wellbeing increased with increased levels of volunteering. Tilda also found that 80 per cent of older people provide informal care.

In terms of infrastructure for older people, the report says that – based on their usual walking speeds – 31 per cent of Irish adults aged 65-74 and 61 per cent of adults 75 and older do not have enough time to cross the road in the time provided by traffic lights.

“Guidelines for pedestrian light settings are not compatible with older Irish adults’ walking abilities,” it says. “Not being able to cross the road comfortably can impact on everyday experiences, leading to reductions in social engagement, physical activity, functional independence, perception of safety, and quality of life.”

Tilda called for an education and awareness campaign targeted at pedestrians to highlight what light signals mean, as well as the importance of avoiding distractions when crossing the road.

Researchers with the organisation are working with local authorities to assess signal timing settings and provide evidence for public safety campaigns with the Road Safety Authority.

On health, the report says one in 10 people aged over 50 in the Republic has diabetes (9.5 per cent), equivalent to 120,000 people. The majority of those with diabetes are diagnosed, but one in 10 is undiagnosed.

Perceptions of ageing are said to have a significant influence on health and quality of life. Older adults with negative attitudes towards ageing had slower walking speeds and worse cognitive abilities two years later compared with those with more positive attitudes towards ageing.

This was true even after participants’ medications, mood, their life circumstances and other health changes that had occurred over the same two-year period were accounted for. Negative attitudes towards ageing also seemed to affect how different health conditions interacted.

Frail older adults are at risk of multiple health problems including worse cognition. Frail participants with negative attitudes towards ageing had worse cognition compared with participants who were not frail. However, frail participants with positive attitudes towards ageing had the same level of cognitive ability as their non-frail peers.

The secrets to healthy ageing and good mental health:

- Physical activity

- Heart health

- Social engagement

- Positive attitudes to ageing

The contribution of older people to society:

- Half of all over 50s provide care to their grandchildren

- Half of all over 50s had volunteered in the last year

- One in five adults aged 65-74 do formal voluntary work daily or weekly

- One in five over 50s with older parents provide help with household tasks to their parents, and a quarter provide help with personal care

Most common health conditions:

- Hypertension and diabetes continue to be the most prevalent cardiovascular conditions

- Almost two thirds of the population over 50 has high blood pressure

- One in 10 aged over 50 has diabetes, equivalent to 120,000 people

- Arthritis and osteoporosis are the most prevalent non-cardiovascular chronic conditions

- Nearly one in five men and a quarter of women over 50 have fallen in the past year

- Almost one in 10 of the over 50s have had a fall requiring medical treatment in the last year

High blood pressure:

- 64 per cent of population over 50 have high blood pressure

- 45 per cent were unaware of having high blood pressure

- 59 per cent of those with high blood pressure were receiving treatment

Atrial Fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm which contributes to a risk of stroke, heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease):

- One in five men over 80 have it

- One third are unaware of this

- One third are aware of it but were getting incorrect treatment