Massive inequalities in Irish health

Reports published by the Institute of Public Health have highlighted inequality of a massive scale between the health of Ireland's lower and higher occupational classes. The reports also indicate a significant difference between the health of Irish people as compared with our European counterparts. 


The Institute has found that:

* Between 1989 and 1998 the death rates for all causes of death were over three times higher in the lowest occupational class than in the highest.

* The death rates for all cancers among the lowest occupational class is over twice as high for the highest class, it is nearly three times higher for strokes, four times higher for lung cancer, six times for accidents.

* Perinatal mortality is three times higher in poorer families than in richer families.

* Women in the unemployed socio-economic group are more than twice as likely to give birth to low birth weight children as women in the higher professional group.

* The incidence of chronic physical illness has been found to be two and a half times higher for poor people than for the wealthy

* Men in unskilled jobs were four times more likely to be admitted to hospital for
schizophrenia than higher professional workers

* The rate of hospitalisation for mental illness is more than 6 times higher for people in the lower socio-economic groups as compared with those in the higher groups

* The incidence of male suicide is far higher in the lower socio-economic groups as compared with the higher groups.

* On average 39 per cent of people surveyed in 2003 identified financial problems as the greatest factor in preventing them from improving their health.
The PHAI compared the health of people in Ireland against that of the 15 other EU states (pre-enlargement) They found that Irish people compare badly with the experience of citizens in other EU counties. These findings included:

* Mortality rates in Ireland are worse than the EU average for a range of illnesses, particularly diseases of the circulatory system, breast cancer and death from smoking related illnesses.

* Irish women have almost twice the rate of death from heart disease as the average European woman.

* The incidences of mortality for Irish women for cancers of the breast, colon, larynx and oesophagus and for ischaemic heart disease are among the highest in the EU

* At the age of 65 Irish men have the lowest life expectancy in the EU.
(Aside from the reports mentioned, the CORI report: “Addressing Inequality” has also been used as a background text for this article.)