People in Ireland eat more portions of fruits and vegetables daily than any other European country, according to a new report.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development publishes its Health at a Glance 2022 report this month, which reviews key challenges to building more resilient health systems following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report found that across all EU member states, just 12 per cent of adults consume the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day. However, 33 per cent of adults in Ireland reach this target, with a further 48 per cent consuming between one and four portions daily.
What about smoking?
The report also highlights Ireland’s progress in reducing smoking rates over the last decade. In 2020, almost one in five adults (19 per cent) across EU countries smoked daily, in comparison to 16 per cent of adults in Ireland.
Smoking rates in Ireland fell by eight percentage points from 24 per cent in 2010. This is the second largest drop across EU countries, behind Estonia which saw its smoking rates fall from 27 per cent in 2010 to 18 per cent in 2020.
The “significant threat” posed by air pollution and climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions was also highlighted. According to the report, pollution increases the risk of serious health problems, including respiratory diseases, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and leukemia.
In EU countries, exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — a key air pollutant — is estimated to have caused the death of 307,000 people in 2019. Mortality rates from PM2.5 were highest in central and eastern Europe with premature death rates. at least 50 per cent higher than the EU average of 69 per 100,000.
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Conversely, Ireland had one of the lowest rates, at 27 per 100,000, behind Iceland at 14 per 100,000 and Norway at 23 per 100,000.
In addition, the report reveals how Ireland’s public coverage of pharmaceutical costs is among the highest in the EU.
On average, government and compulsory insurance schemes cover 70 per cent of all retail pharmaceutical spending, but in Ireland, 81 per cent of pharmaceutical spending is covered. This compares with 85 per cent in Cyprus and just 41 per cent in Iceland.
The report also praises Ireland’s swift implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, which is estimated to have reduced deaths by 70 per cent.
By the end of 2021, the average EU vaccination rate was 77 per cent of the population, but more than 90 per cent of the adult population in Ireland completed an initial vaccination course.