New Findings Show High Rates of Cardiovascular Disease, Arthritis and Obesity Among Older People in Ireland

Posted on: 29 January 2014

Second Major Report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) Published

The second major report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), a national study of over 8,000 people aged 50 and over in Ireland has been published. This report, led by Trinity College Dublin, is based on data collected between April 2012 and January 2013 and shows how the lives of the over 50s in Ireland have changed over the period since they were last interviewed in 2009 and 2010. This was a period of considerable social and economic change in Ireland, dominated by the severe financial and economic crisis.

Pictured at the launch were Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator, TILDA, Paddy Clancy, journalist & TILDA participant, Professor Charles Normand, Edward Kennedy Chair in Health Policy and Management, Dr Anne Nolan, Research Director, TILDA and Professor Alan Barrett, Research Director, ESRI & Trinity
Key findings demonstrate serious health challenges faced by older adults in Ireland such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and problematic drinking.  The over 50s, however, report a high quality of life, smoking prevalence has declined and incomes have remained stable. These findings will inform health and social policy and practice in Ireland with long-term benefit for our ageing society.


The full report can be found here:

Key Findings:

  • Over one-third of the over 50s in Ireland are obese and a further 44% are overweight.
  • Obesity is strongly associated with heart disease and diabetes. Diabetes is three times more common in obese individuals, and rates of cardiovascular disease among obese over 50s are nearly twice as high as rates among those of normal weight.
  • About one-third of the over 50s report low levels of physical activity, with more women than men reporting low physical activity.
  • Over half of those aged 75 and over have arthritis. 10% of those aged 75 and over without arthritis when first surveyed went on to develop the condition.
  • 16.5% of adults over 50 smoke (down from 18.3%) and a notable decrease in smoking occurs around retirement age.
  • Problematic drinking has risen for both men and women; from 17% to 22% in men and from 8% to 11% in women.
  • Polypharmacy (i.e., taking five or more medications) has increased from 21% to 26%.
  • Nearly 20% of men and 25% of women over 50 have fallen in the past year, and almost 10% of the over 50s have had a fall requiring medical treatment in the last year.
  • The over 50s enjoy high levels of satisfaction with their quality of life into late old age, and those with strong social networks and relationships have a higher quality of life than those who are less socially active.
  • There has been a decline in private health insurance cover among the under 65s but an increase in those aged 65 or over.
  • The percentage of the over 50s with a medical or GP visit card has increased overall, but declined in those aged 70 years and over.
  • The uptake of prostate and breast cancer screening is high but the uptake of the flu vaccine is low.
  • The incomes of the over 50s have remained stable, but wealth has fallen, largely due to a reduction in the value of property assets.

Commenting on the significance of the study, Principal Investigator of TILDA and Professor of Medical Gerontology, Professor Rose Anne Kenny said: “Ireland’s population is ageing. This second series of findings show that recent policy changes have already impacted on aspects of health, economic and social care in Ireland. TILDA has demonstrated strong associations between obesity and diabetes and cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, angina and heart attacks.  The high prevalence of obesity and associated chronic disease is a cause for concern. Given current and future dramatic changes in the Irish population, with one-fifth of people aged over 65 by 2060, TILDA will greatly assist new policy initiatives to address health behaviours and disease prevention so that our later life years can be healthy and independent.”

Welcoming the findings, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said, “If policies and programmes are to be designed to support and enable positive ageing, we need timely and regular access to comprehensive information about all of the determinants of positive ageing and of the inter-relationships between these determinants. The Government took the decision to fund TILDA because it will greatly enhance the quantity and quality of data available about our older population.”

The Minister continued, “I am encouraged by some of the findings in this report, particularly those that show that, in general, the over 50s enjoy a good quality of life and report their health as excellent or very good.  However, I am also struck by some worrying trends, particularly the levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their co-morbidities. The finding that 35% of the over 50s are obese with a further 44% overweight is another serious cause for concern. Our current national drive to combat childhood obesity is a very necessary one. These findings, therefore, remind us that obesity is a lifelong issue and one that will require sustained and targeted interventions across all age groups and into the years ahead. The information gained from studies such as TILDA makes a valuable contribution to our overall efforts to create a Healthy Ireland and increase the proportion of our people who are healthy at all stages of life”. For more information about TILDA please visit:


For media queries contact:

Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Yolanda Kennedy,


About TILDA: The Irish LongituDinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) was launched in November 2006 to study a representative cohort of over 8,000 people, aged 50 and over and resident in Ireland, charting their health, social and economic circumstances over a 10-year period. It the most comprehensive study of ageing ever carried out in Ireland and is modelled closely on long-running ‘sister’ studies worldwide, such as the US Health and Retirement Survey and the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing. The study is being carried out by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with an interdisciplinary panel of scientific researchers, with expertise in various fields of ageing from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), University College Cork (UCC) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). A group of international scientists advises the TILDA investigators. Funding has been provided by the Department of Health, Irish Life and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

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