TILDA’s latest report on wellbeing and health in Ireland’s over 50s

Posted on: 29 November 2018

New findings by TILDA (the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing at Trinity College Dublin) present the ‘Change in life circumstances’ for Ireland’s over 50s between 2009 and 2016.  Chapters on health, quality of life, social engagement, living conditions, and health utilisation are included.  This report includes the findings of the Wave 4 of data collection, along with results from the analysis of the combined data from Wave 1 – Wave 4.

At the launch of the latest TILDA report: (l to r) Professor Stephen Thomas, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Dr Darrin Morrissey, Dr Christine McGarrigle

This is the first report from TILDA with a focus on the ‘Change in life circumstances’ of participants since their first interview seven years ago.  It highlights a number of important issues that are having a significant impact on the physical health, mental health and well-being of adults over 50 in Ireland and which also have a substantial impact on the current and future health system.

Speaking on the release of the findings, Lead Academic, Professor Rose-Anne Kenny said: “The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) was designed to provide an evidence-base for addressing current and emerging issues associated with population ageing in Ireland across health, economic and social systems.  Before the establishment of this study, only minimal national information was available on the prevalence and incidence of age related disease, disability, health service utilisation or economic and social data. Tilda has changed this landscape, enabling new evidence based research on which to create a better society for Ireland’s older persons. We would like to acknowledge the great generosity of the TILDA participants who give so much of their time to enable this information in order improve the ageing experience in Ireland. We also thank the study funders; the Department of Health, the Health Research Board and the generous philanthropic contributions from Atlantic Philanthropies and from Irish Life.”

“This report provides evidence for high rates of volunteering amongst the over 50s and the benefits that volunteering, social engagement, supportive friendships and membership of organisations have on physical and mental health and well being. These social interactions suppress unwanted inflammation which is part of the ageing process.”

“In TILDA, Quality of life continues to improve with age and more so if social engagement is strong, including for persons who have significant disabilities, who experience better quality of life and mental health if their relationships are strong.  This extends to connectedness and solidarity within neighbourhoods – underscoring the important role for public health of supportive neighbours and safe neighbourhoods.”

Professor Kenny continued: “Whereas smoking has declined for those 50-64, physical activity has not improved and problematic drinking rates remain constant.

As expected, the number of older persons who are frail has increased and with this overnight hospital admission and extended length of stay have also increased, whereas use of hospital out- patient facilities fell. Reasons for these changes and models of care to better address these needs are required. Furthermore, the care provision by families or friends (informal care) is rising.

National policies targeted towards enhanced social engagement and a reduction in  loneliness and unwanted isolation should enhance health and quality of life.”

The key findings of the report include:

  • Quality of life doesn’t decline linearly with age, but instead increases to a peak at age 68 and then starts to gradually decline, reaching the value observed among 50 year olds at age 80 and decreases steadily from that age onwards.
  • Over 21% of TILDA respondents reported the highest level of social integration in Wave 4, with 39% moderately integrated, 29% moderately isolated and 11% most isolated. This compared to 24%, 41%, 27% and 8% in Wave 1 respectively. Those reporting highest levels of social integration had higher mean quality of life scores than those reporting lower levels of social integration for both men and women.
  • Location differences were apparent in reporting of neighbourhood social cohesion. 54.3% of participants living in rural areas reported high social cohesion compared to 18.6% of participants living in Dublin city or county.
  • One third of women (31%) report positive supportive friendships in Wave 4, compared to 16% of men, similar to that reported in Wave 1. Relationship quality within social networks is important, and those who report positive supportive relationships with friends report higher quality of life relative to those with less supportive relationships.
  • Almost three quarters (74%) of older adults participate in active and social leisure activities each week, while 52% participate in organised groups such as sports groups, book clubs, or charitable organisations.
  • Over half of older adults reported problematic housing conditions. The most prevalent issue was damp, mould or moisture (46.3%).
  • There is a decrease in the number of women aged 50-64 years who report currently smoking between Waves 1 and 4 (24% to 17%).
  • A large proportion of the TILDA sample are physically inactive across all four waves (45% on average do not get 150 minutes per week of activity).
  • For older adults with frailty, the proportion with at least one overnight hospital admission increased (from 23% to 31%) while the average number of nights spent in hospital more than doubled (from 2.7 nights to 6.5 nights). The proportion with at least one outpatient clinic visit fell (from 69% to 59%) and the average number of outpatient clinic visits decreased (from 3.1% visits to 2.1% visits).
  • Community service use (e.g. respite, day centre, meals on wheels, occupational therapy or community nursing) are reported as low and show minimal change. Whereas informal care (i.e. care from family or friend) increased substantially.


Commenting on the latest report, David Harney, CEO, Irish Life Group said: “TILDA is creating an exceptionally rich knowledge base which will influence long-term public policy and community services in Ireland. The ageing profile of the Irish population means that TILDA’s research is now more important than ever as we plan to meet the challenge of changing demographics in our society. Irish Life is delighted to support TILDA as a philanthropic partner since 2006.”

TILDA acknowledges the role of the Minister and Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and Irish Life, in funding and continued support of TILDA. TILDA acknowledges that any views expressed in reports and publications do not necessarily represent those of any funder.

You can read the full report at: https://tilda.tcd.ie/publications/reports/


Media Contact:

Ciara O’Shea, Media Relations Officer | coshea9@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4337