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New report Covid-19 pandemic likely to cause drop in Ireland's life expectancy

A report on the state of the nation's health comes amid a fall in the number of cancers diagnosed during the pandemic

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We have been living longer. Stock photo

We have been living longer. Stock photo

We have been living longer. Stock photo

Ireland's life expectancy may suffer a setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while our levels of obesity and bad habits also pose a risk, according to heath officials.

A Department of Health report on the state of the nation's health comes amid a fall in the number of cancers diagnosed during the pandemic, as well as delayed care due to disruption in hospitals.

Our life expectancy has been climbing and currently stands at 84.7 years for women and 80.4 years for men.

As in most countries, life expectancy for women is higher than for men, according to the Department of Health report.

However, "this gap has narrowed in the past decade and men's life expectancy in 2019 was 3.9 years below female life expectancy, compared to 5.5 years in 1999".

It said the "greatest gains in life expectancy have been achieved in the older age groups, reflecting decreasing death rates from major diseases".

"In addition to living longer, women in Ireland typically experience a slightly higher number of healthy life years than men," the report added.

"However, men at 65 experience a slightly higher proportion of their life expectancy in good health.

"The proportion of life expectancy at age 65 to be lived in good health is higher for both men and women in Ireland compared with the EU average. Overall, there are more people in Ireland than before."

The report warns that the effects of the pandemic on life expectancy in Ireland "will not be known for some months but recent OECD data suggests falling life expectancy in 2020 due to the pandemic has been observed in most OECD countries where data is available".

The OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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The Irish population in 2021 grew by an estimated 6pc since the 2016 census.

"The population is growing across all regions and age groups, with the most significant growth seen in the older people. The population aged 65 and over has increased by 35pc since 2012, which is considerably higher than the EU average increase of 15.7pc," the Department of Health report stated, drawing on figures from the Central Statistics Office.

It comes against growing concern that public waiting lists have been further impacted by hospital disruptions. On top of that, our levels of exercise, smoking, drinking of alcohol, and obesity pose a threat to health gains.

A total of 8,744 lives were lost to heart disease and stroke in 2020, which was a slight reduction on 2019.

Of these, 4,612 were men and 4,132 were women.

The number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 fell by between 10pc to 14pc amid concern the pandemic has seriously impacted patients with the disease.

The annual report of the National Cancer Registry said the Covid-19 crisis, particularly the first wave in spring 2020, meant patients postponed doctors' visits, screening programmes were paused and hospitals had to reduce admissions.

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