Burden of mental illness in Ireland among highest in new EU report

The State of Health in the EU report, published every two years, compares Ireland with other EU countries in various categories including health, risk factors and the performance of the health system.

For the first time this year, the report includes a section on mental health. It said while it is difficult to determine the exact number of people affected by mental health disorders, the rate in Ireland is higher than the EU average.

Estimates from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation say that over one million people in Ireland had a mental health disorder in 2019, representing 21pc of the population.

This is not only higher than the EU average of 16.7pc but also higher than Irelands 2016 rate of 18.5pc.

Anxiety disorders are the most common and affect 7.6 percent of the population, while depressive disorders account for 5 percent, and alcohol and drug use disorders account for 4.7 percent.

The relatively high prevalence of mental health disorders in Ireland significantly affects the well-being of its citizens and has a profound impact on the economy, the report said.

“Based on estimates…mental health disorders in Ireland resulted in the loss of approximately 141,500 years of productive life in 2019.

However, the report also found that the suicide rate in Ireland has fallen by almost 12pc over the past 10 years.

Suicide is a significant public health problem in the EU, including in Ireland, where it accounted for 1.4 percent of all deaths in 2020, the report said.

Although at a slower pace than most other EU countries, over the past decade Ireland’s suicide rate has fallen in line with the trend observed across the EU.

In 2020, the suicide rate in Ireland was 9.6pc per 100,000 population, around 6.1pc lower than the EU average.

Promoting mental well-being and improving the services available to people experiencing mental health difficulties are key priorities for the Government, and these figures are a reminder of why it is important that we maintain focus and That promise, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler said.

The report also found that Ireland has the highest rate of reported good health in the EU.

Although the report found that 80pc of Irish people reported they were in good health, this owed in part to Ireland’s younger age profile compared to the EU average.

Cancer was found to be the leading cause of death in Ireland and accounted for nearly three in every 10 deaths. Lung cancer remains the most common cause of death and is responsible for one in five cancer deaths.

Behavioral risk factors account for 35% of all deaths in Ireland and the report says these risk factors are a major driver of mortality in Ireland.

Smoking accounted for around 20 percent of all deaths in Ireland in 2019, higher than the EU average of 17 percent. Dietary hazards are also a factor, with 13% of deaths linked to them. However, the dietary risk is lower than the EU average, which is 17pc.

Alcohol consumption was linked to 5pc of deaths while low physical activity accounted for 3pc.

The report said that while adult obesity remained a public health concern, the population in Ireland was becoming more health conscious.

The prevalence of obesity in Ireland is 21pc in 2022, which is higher than the EU average. However, in 2019 it was reported that almost 33pc of adults consumed five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, higher than the EU average of less than 13pc.

37pc of the Irish population reported that they did at least 150 minutes of physical activity a day, higher than the EU average of 33pc and higher than the reported figure in Ireland in 2014 of 29pc.

Despite improvements in alcohol consumption, heavy drinking is still a major risk factor according to the report.

One in five adults in Ireland in 2019 reported that they regularly drank heavily, down from 2014, when it was almost one in three.

In terms of total alcohol consumption per capita, Ireland recorded 10.2 liters per year in 2022, higher than the EU average of 9.8 litres.

The report also examined the health systems in each country. The report found that the pandemic led to an increase in health spending of more than 12pc between 2019 and 2021. Per capita spending on health in 2021 in Ireland was 3,885 which is slightly lower than the EU average of 4,028.

The report said Ireland would spend a third (32pc) of its health budget on inpatient care by 2021 and 25pc on outpatient care.

In terms of healthcare accessibility, the report found that by 2022, 2.6pc of the population experienced unmet medical care needs due to excessive cost, travel distance or waiting times.

This rate is slightly higher than the EU average of 2.2pc and Irelands rate in 2019 of 1.7pc.

The report also said that the design of Ireland’s healthcare system is unusual within the EU in not providing universal health coverage for all residents.

These Country Health Profiles provide a concise and policy-relevant overview of health and health services in the EU/European Economic Area, said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

They highlight the characteristics and challenges in each country against a backdrop of cross-country comparisons. They help support us in policy making and are an important avenue for mutual learning and voluntary exchange, he added.

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