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Shifting Trends, E-cigarettes, Antibiotics, and Substance Use In Ireland

Navigating Alcohol and Smoking Patterns

Introduction

The 2023 Healthy Ireland Survey, reported by Samantha Libreri, provides crucial insights into the changing health landscape in Ireland. With over 7,000 participants aged 15 and above, the survey unveils notable shifts in health behaviors and trends.

RELATED ARTICLE Health survey shows increased vaping and antibiotic use

Health Trends

The survey begins by highlighting a concerning trend—a decline in self-reported good health. While 80% still report ‘good’ or ‘very good’ health, this represents a two-point decrease from the previous year. Additionally, the prevalence of long-term health conditions has surged from 29% to 40% in just two years. Common health issues include high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol, asthma, and diabetes.

Substance Use

Examining substance use, the data indicates stability in smoking levels at 18%. However, there’s a noteworthy rise in e-cigarette usage, climbing from 6% to 8%. Of particular concern is the finding that 20% of women aged 15-24 use e-cigarettes daily or occasionally.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption has seen a decline, with 70% reporting drinking in the past 12 months, down from 75% in 2018. The survey also highlights a decrease in binge drinking, as 24% of drinkers are now considered binge drinkers, down from 27% pre-Covid figures.

Policy Initiatives

Acknowledging these trends, Chief Medical Officer Prof Breda Smyth notes the plateauing of tobacco use at 18%. However, there’s optimism about forthcoming legislation addressing tobacco and nicotine inhaling products, currently in the Seanad stage. Smyth emphasizes the importance of reaching the desired target of 5% tobacco use within the population.

Drug Use Insights

For the first time, the survey includes data on drug use. It reveals that 21% have reported lifetime illegal drug use, with cannabis emerging as the most popular substance. Sedative or tranquilizer use is reported by 13%, with 6% using them without a prescription.

Healthcare Utilization

Patterns of healthcare utilization are also explored. GP visits have increased from 73% to 76% compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, there is a concerning uptick in antibiotic use, rising to 41% from 27% two years prior, attributed to fewer GP visits and lower infection rates during the pandemic.

Mental Health Trends

In the realm of mental health, the survey indicates positive trends. While 86% report good or very good quality of life, positive mental health is higher than in 2021 but lower than in 2016. More men than women report positive mental health.

Social Dynamics Post-Covid

Post-Covid restrictions, social dynamics vary. 43% state that their social connectedness has not changed, with those aged 15-24 feeling most socially connected. However, residents of Dublin are more likely to feel lonely ‘often’ or ‘always.’

In summary, the 2023 Healthy Ireland Survey provides a comprehensive picture of the shifting health landscape. It underscores the importance of ongoing public health initiatives and legislation to address emerging challenges and promote overall well-being.

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