Geary Institute Workshop on Well-Being and Economic Conditions

The Geary Institute is hosting a half-day workshop to look at changes in well-being in Ireland over the last 10 to 15 years. The specific aim is to consider a wide range of possible outcomes including physical and mental health as well as subjective well-being. Moreover we want to draw on a range of approaches from epidemiology, psychological medicine and the social sciences as well as different types of data. The event will be held in the UCD Geary Institute on Tuesday November 17th from 1130pm to 4pm. A light lunch would be provided.  This is is likely to be a full event so please RSVP to to register attendance (there is no fee) and also let us know if you subsequently cannot make it.

Co-organisers: Kevin Denny (UCD) and Liam Delaney (Stirling University)


1130pm to 1150pm: Registration

11.50pm – 1200pm: Introduction and Aims

1200pm – 1230pm: Brendan Walsh (UCD): “Reflections on Economic Conditions and Well-being in Ireland”.

1230pm – 1.00pm: Paul Corcoran (UCC) “Impact of Austerity and Recession on Suicide and Self-Harm in Ireland”.

1.00pm-130pm: Lunch

130pm – 2pm: Kevin Denny (UCD): “Self-reported health in good times and in bad: Ireland in the 21st century”.

2pm – 230pm: Eithne Sexton (TCD) – “Subjective wellbeing at older ages in Ireland 2009-2013: Predictors of change over time”.

230pm – 3pm: Cecily Kelleher (UCD): “Impact of the Economic Climate on Health Status during the first two decades of the 21st Century in the Republic of Ireland: Findings from the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort study of a Thousand Families”.

3pm – 330pm: Michael Hogan (NUIG):  “Engaging with Citizens in the Design of Well-being Measures and Policies:  Systems Thinking and the Public Participation Network”.

330 – 4pm: Discussion

One reply on “Geary Institute Workshop on Well-Being and Economic Conditions”

Based on self-reported health surveys, mortality rates and life expectancy there has been a dramatic improvement in health levels in Ireland since the onset of the Celtic Tiger. Between 1996 and 2011 Ireland recorded the largest increase in life expectancy in Western Europe. In the mid 1990s life expectancy in Ireland was below the EU average, but today its higher. In the mid 1990s life expectancy in R. Ireland was the same as in Scotland (close to worst in Western Europe), but today its 2 years higher than in Scotland and above-average even for the wealthy countries of north-west Europe. Likewise in the mid 1990s life expectancy in R. Ireland was almost 1 year lower than in N. Ireland, but today its almost 1 year higher.

An interesting topic for investigation would be why R. Ireland, with its part-private health service, has made such a dramatic improvement in health outcomes since the mid-1990s, while Scotland and (to a lesser extent) N. Ireland, with their state-monopoly health services, haven’t to anything like the same extent. Are the two connected? However, such an investigation would be politically incorrect in the extreme and unlikely to receive funding.

Also notable that the trend of improving health continued during the recession. CSO figures a few weeks ago showed that life expectancy in Ireland rose by approximately 1.5 years between 2006 and 2011. This was a very slight slowing down in the rate of increase seen between 1996 and 2006. Now that the Celtic Tiger is back, hopefully the rate of increase will accelerate again.

Self-reported health is also interesting. In survey after survey Ireland consistently records the highest levels of self-reported health in the EU. These are the Eurostat figures for 2013:

%age reporting bad or very bad health:

Ireland 3.7%
Malta 4.0%
Sweden 4.1%
Netherlands 5.3%
Finland 6.7%
Cyprus 7.2%
Denmark 7.5%
Germany 8.1%
Luxembourg 8.3%
Spain 8.4%
U. Kingdom 8.4%
France 8.5%
Belgium 8.6%
Austria 9.1%
romania 9.4%
Greece 10.5%
Slovenia 10.7%
Bulgaria 11.6%
Slovakia 11.9%
Italy 12.7%
Czech Republic 12.8%
Poland 14.3%
Estonia 15.6%
Hungary 15.7%
Latvia 16.8%
Portugal 18.6%
Lithuania 18.7%
Croatia 25.3%

The very bad figures for Eastern European countries is consistent with their very high mortality rates and low life expectancy. In 1990, after 45 years of marxist-leninist rule, life expectancy in Eastern Europe was 10 years lower than in Western Europe. Another triumph for socialism. Since then the gap has narrowed somewhat but is still large.

Not being a doctor, I’m not sure why the figure for Ireland is so much better than for other Western European countries. In self-reported health surveys Ireland consistently scores best in the EU for both genders and for all age-groups, so its not due to the fact that Ireland’s population is younger. Maybe the Workshop will come up with an explanation. The figures show that EITHER health levels are higher in Ireland OR, at the very least, show that hypochondria is much less of a problem than in other Western European countries.

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