Health in Ireland Key Trends 2013

Significant contribution by the health services to improving health status and reducing death rates but significant challenges – smoking, alcohol, obesity – must be addressed

The Department of Health today (19th December) published Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2013. Download the document at

This is the sixth edition of this easy-to-use reference guide to significant trends in health and health care over the past decade, including population and health status, as well as trends in service provision. This year, new tables, maps and graphs have been included on some specific topics or where new data has been made available. Each section has a brief introduction summarising key statistics.

Overall, the picture which emerges is of continuing progress, but at a reduced rate, set in a context of very significant financial constraints. Rapid ageing of the population in conjunction with lifestyle-related health threats present major challenges now and for the future in sustaining and further improving health and health services in Ireland.

The Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, welcomed the publication. “The 2013 edition of Health in Ireland: Key Trends outlines the progress we have made despite the significant challenges we face”, he said, “It is vital that we continue to collect good data in order to make better policy decisions. This publication illustrates that better health care continues to contribute significantly to better outcomes and gains in life expectancy.”

Continuing improvements in health status and life expectancy are evident – life expectancy in Ireland has gained a full four years since 2000 and is now above the EU average - and death rates from all major causes have declined significantly over the period. The contribution of modern health services to this achievement, while difficult to quantify, has been of unquestionable significance.

While there is currently minimal growth in the overall population, the number of people over the age of 65 is increasing by 20,000 every year and will more than double over the next 30 years. There are clear implications for health service planning and delivery.

Given the continuing economic constraints facing the country, recent data on employment and expenditure in the health services are characterised by considerable reductions. Figures also show increasing numbers and percentages of the population eligible for a medical card and decreasing numbers purchasing private health insurance.

The Minister said, “The key challenge, and opportunity, will be to ensure that scarcer resources are carefully targeted to deliver services in the fairest, most efficient and most effective ways possible. The ageing of our population and the problems that smoking, alcohol and obesity present, are significant challenges. In an economic climate where resources will be severely constrained, improved efficiency, effectiveness and equity at all levels of the health services will be essential in successfully managing these demands.”

“This is already happening through improved models of treatment in areas such as cancer and stroke care leading to better outcomes. Examination of trends over a decade also helps to identify the challenges facing health and the health services in the coming years”, he continued.

Concluding, the Minister said “earlier this year, I launched Healthy Ireland 2013-2025 to provide a national framework for improved health and wellbeing and we have been driving major reform of our health services under Future Health since November 2012. We have made good progress in terms of hospital groups and reform of the HSE as well as a package of measures to address the misuse of alcohol and our strategy to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025. We must continue this work to ensure we maintain the progress outlined in Health in Ireland Key Trends.

Key trends include:

Notes for Editors

Further key trends, by section of the booklet, are presented below:

Section 1 – Population and Life Expectancy

Chapter 2 – Health of the Population

Chapter 3 – Hospital Care

Chapter 4 – Primary Care and Community Services

Chapter 5 – Health Service Employment

Chapter 6 – Health Service Expenditure

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