Health inequalities on the island: statistics

Despite significant improvements in health and life expectancy on the island, health inequalities remain. Health inequalities are evident at all stages of life from birth to old age. Health inequalities are also reported in populations living in deprived areas and in disadvantaged population groups such as people living in poverty, the unemployed and Travellers. 

IPH has been working to develop information on health inequaities on the island for a decade. Further information can be found at IPH action on health inequalities.

Inequalities in mortality
The IPH document Inequalities in Mortality 1989-1998 found that in both jurisdictions, the annual directly standardised mortality rate in the lowest occupational class was significantly (over 130%) higher than the rate in the highest occupational class.

There are sizeable inequality gaps between deprived areas and the Northern Ireland average in terms of alcohol-related mortality (121% higher in deprived areas), drug related mortality (113% higher), suicides (73% higher) and respiratory death rates (66% higher). Although life expectancy has been increasing in recent years in deprived areas, there is no evidence of narrowing of the inequality gap. The statistics and research can be found here.

Inequalities in physical and mental illness
There is a higher prevalence of chronic illness and psychological distress in lower social classes in both jurisdictions. While the difference was not significant in Northern Ireland, it was significant in Ireland.

The prevalence of stroke, angina and heart attack in an area increase as the local socio-economic circumstances worsen (Ireland and Northern Ireland).

Consistent poverty rates are higher for those with worse self-reported health, chronic illness or disability (Ireland).

Ibreastfeedingnequalities in child health
Children born to women in lower socio-economic groups are less likely to gain the benefits of breastfeeding. More women in higher social classes reported that they breastfed their child (Ireland and Northern Ireland). These statistics and research can be found here

In 2005, the highest percentage of low birthweight babies were born to mothers in the ‘unemployed’ socio-economic group (Ireland). Low birthweight babies are at greater risk of death, illness, disability and poor academic development.

Inequalities in health services
A greater percentage of women from higher social classes have had a cervical smear in the last 12 months in Ireland, with no significant social class differences in Northern Ireland.

Antenatal visits in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy are lowest among the lower socio-economic groups (Ireland).

cyclistsInequalities in health behaviours
A higher percentage of those in lower social classes smoke in both jurisdictions and this is more pronounced in Northern Ireland.  In both jurisdictions, the percentage of children who reported smoking is higher among lower social classes.

Lower physical activity levels are recorded in lower social classes than in higher social classes in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Other sources of statistics on health inequalities on the island