Why Protestants outlive Catholics


Sir, – Your report about Central Statistics Office mortality figures (“Protestants outlive Catholics, study shows”, June 29th) would have benefited from seeking comments from statisticians.

Statisticians, in particular, would have raised one, if not both, eyebrows at the suggestion by the commentators cited that any differential in mortality rates between Irish Catholics and Protestants are attributable to the “thriftier lifestyles” of the latter.

The rest of us should raise our eyebrows at the absence, in these comments, of any reference to social class. This is not a fault of the research itself, which can quite reasonably be interpreted as implying that longevity can logically and unsurprisingly be related primarily to social class advantages (and to affluence in particular) rather than to religious adherence. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – The recent article by Simon Carswell, based on a CSO study, accurately reports the finding of different (lower) age-adjusted death rates in Irish Protestants than Catholics.

The proposed explanation for this, put forward by two leading Irish historians, namely that Irish Protestants live frugal or thrifty lifestyles, and go easy on the doughnuts, is less likely to be true.

A brief examination of the 2016 census data shows modest, but notable differences in the occupations of Catholics and Protestants, with a somewhat higher proportion of Protestants in occupations with higher social status and better income. This is a more likely explanation of the lower death rate More seriously, the headline, and the commentary, obscure the real message, that in Ireland in 2016, where you live, how much money you have, and what you work at, all have a similar effect to lifelong smoking, on how long you can expect to live. That’s the real story, and the real scandal. – Yours, etc,


Professor of Health Systems,

School of Nursing and

Human Sciences,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – Not only has the CSO shown that using less sugar in jam-making and other Protestant traditions leads to longer life expectancy. Credit should be given to the reduced carbon footprint of these frugal measures in food miles, and living in cold houses.

Are we to see the re-establishment of the Church of Ireland as part of the Government’s climate strategy? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Simon Carswell’s article (June 29th) on why Protestants live longer than Roman Catholics, displays all the incisiveness of a blunt butterknife. It is expected of tabloids to resort to sweeping generalisations and hoary old stereotypes, but better is expected of the paper of record.

As to the cause of greater Protestant longevity, perhaps the next Census could contain a question on room thermostat settings so we can get to the bottom of this mystery? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.