Comprehensive Study on Health and Lifestyle

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety, Mr. Pat The Cope Gallagher, T.D. has published the results from the latest National Health and Lifestyle Survey (SLÁN 2007). SLÁN 07, which is the third in a series of lifestyle and behaviour studies of the Irish population, was commissioned by the Department of Health and Children and was carried out by a consortium involving NUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and University College Cork. The study involved face-to-face interviews with 10,364 adults along with a sub-study on body size of 967 younger adults (18-44 years old) and a more detailed physical examination of 1,207 adults aged 45 and over. The research team from NUI Galway was led by Professor Margaret Barry, Director of the Health Promotion Research Centre, and included Dr. Michal Molcho and Mr. Eric Van Lente, also from the Health Promotion Research Centre. Professor Barry, on behalf of the team, said, "We are delighted as a cross-institutional team to deliver SLÁN 2007, the largest national health and lifestyle survey of adults undertaken in Ireland to date. It builds on two previous surveys, also carried out at NUI Galway, to provide a profile of health since 1998. For the first time, the SLÁN survey includes information on the mental health and social wellbeing of the Irish population and national level data on injuries. The findings for the survey give vital direction for policy and service developments in the coming decade." Key results emerging from the Survey The survey contains a wealth of data on lifestyle behaviours of the Irish adult population including smoking, alcohol consumption, mental health, diet and physical activity. Some of the key facts to emerge are: • Half the population recorded self-rated health as 'excellent' or very 'good' and that this has increased since the last SLÁN survey in 2002. Similarly, there is a reported increase in the number of respondents who described their quality of life as good or very good. • There was a decrease from 2002 to 2007 in the percentage of respondents who reported consuming 6 or more standard drinks ('risky drinking') at least once a week. • Overall, 65% reported consuming the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. One third either always or usually added salt to food at the table. Half reported snacking between meals, most commonly on biscuits and cakes. • 29% of the population smoked, with higher rates amongst young people. Almost half of both male and female smokers reported attempting to quit within the previous 12 months; younger smokers were more likely to report attempting to quit. • Younger men reported higher levels of physical activity, reducing with increasing age. This contrasts with the relatively low level of physical activity in women across all age groups. Of concern was the fact that respondents who reported that they were physically inactive gave their main reason as 'no time'. • Over half of respondents (55%) reported being involved in community activities, compared to 59% in 2002. • The results that emerged from the physical examination of the population sample over 45 years of age point to the prevalence of raised cholesterol and high blood pressure in this population group. In relation to body weight, 39% of those examined (ages 18+) were medically overweight with a further 25% classified as obese. "The SLÁN 2007 study provides invaluable data for policy development and programme planning on a range of lifestyle related health behaviours in the Irish population. More importantly, SLÁN 2007 allows us to identify trends and monitor changes in population behaviours thus better informing our priority setting decisions at national level. While people make their own lifestyle choices, it is only through more and better information that we can better understand the health behaviours of the population and provide the necessary advice and support to them," Minister Gallagher said. The lifestyle choices of individuals have a direct impact on their physical and mental well-being. These choices relate to what they eat, if they smoke, the amount of alcohol they consume and if they take regular exercise. While individuals can make their own lifestyle choices, policy makers need to develop and target effective health promotion policies and initiatives in order to inform and influence people to make healthier choices. It is crucial, therefore, that the information on which these policies are developed is accurate and up to date. The Survey Report is available on line at www.dohc.ie or at www.slan07.ie
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