The greatest impact of the recession is apparent among those between the ages of 25 and 50, who are parents and who live in urban areas. The Pfizer Health Index, now in its fourth year, details the findings of a nationally representative quantitative market research survey of the health and wellbeing of the Irish population. This year the study also looks at the impact of the recession on people’s lives, with particular focus of those who had been recently unemployed.
Roughly half of the adult population claim that they are finding it hard to make ends meet and similar numbers are shopping in cheaper retail outlets and socialising less. A third indicated that they are booking less holidays in Ireland and abroad and about a fifth are having problems with mortgage or loan repayments. The most fundamental impact however relates to the reduction of salary, hours worked or indeed the loss of jobs. 16% - about a seventh of the adult population - indicated that their salary has been reduced at work. 13% indicate that their hours of work have been reduced. Furthermore 7% indicate that they themselves have lost their job.
“This research shows that the downturn in the economy is having a major effect on Irish society,” said Dr Maureen Gaffney, Psychologist at the launch of the Health Index. “We are seeing a shift in priorities. Up to quite recently job security and finances would not have been the major concern that they are now. However there is a positive aspect with the research showing that those who are newly unemployed are taking the opportunity to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves. It is heartening to see that many people recently unemployed are facing this adversity with courage and determination, and taking control of those aspects of their lives that they have control - their health, their fitness and their life priorities.”
There is significant evidence that the recently unemployed have cut back their spending on medication. 29% of the unemployed sample and 17% of the wider sample are buying less over the counter medication while 14% of people have cut down on prescription medicines, rising to 20% in the unemployed people. 24% of people are more reluctant to visit a health care professional, rising to 29% in those unemployed. 10% are more reluctant to bring a child to a doctor, rising to 13% in those unemployed. On a positive note unemployment seems to provide an opportunity to take more exercise and become healthier, with 45% of the unemployed sample stating they plan to become more active. They also intend to become less stressed, give up smoking and drink less.
Also speaking at the launch, David Coleman, Clinical Psychologist, Author, TV and Radio Broadcaster, commented; “The recession is having a considerable effect on people’s lifestyles with less money being spent for the family themselves. Whilst this research shows that the recession may be having a negative effect on some people, it may present an opportunity for people to assess their lives and their priorities. The emphasis for some may be to spend more time with family and increase quality family time together. Simple changes such as eating meals together or doing fun activities with your children can make an enormous change to the wellbeing of a family.”
Although personal and family health continue to be a key priority for Irish adults, job security, finances and money are all rising as key issues of concern. Concerns about the cost of living would appear to have been replaced by more immediate concerns for personal finance and job security. This would suggest that the downturn in the economy has changed the priorities of Irish adults. Priorities differ markedly relating to one’s age. Older adults, principally those over the age of 50, are more intensely focussed on personal health. Family health is a priority for those aged 35-50, particularly for women in this age bracket. Personal and family health is much less important for those below the age of 35. A key focus now for those under 35 is financial and monetary issues, as well as job security.
The 2009 Pfizer Health Index found the Irish adults continue to rate themselves highly in terms of their own health. The average person rates his or her health at almost 8 out of ten (7.9), using a scale where 10 denotes excellent health and 1 very poor health. This is a slight increase on the 2008 Health Index where the average score was recorded as 7.8. The average health of the recently unemployed is scored as 7.5 out of 10, which is slightly lower than the overall national average. 24% of those who are recently unemployed score themselves as 6 out of 10 or worse, in comparison with just 17% of the population at large. With regards to health reform issues the priorities for Irish people are consistent over the previous Health Indices. Hospital beds are rated as the greatest priority by 53% of the population, followed by medical cards (11%), screening programmes (10%) and greater access to GPs (8%).
“The results from this year’s Index give us an insight into how the Irish population are managing in the recession,” said Tara Delaney, Director of External Affairs, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. ”Our society is going through immense change which for some may require an adjustment to lifestyle. The downturn in the economy is forcing all of us to examine our priorities. We hope that the reseach presented today will provide a focus on the importance of health in our society.”
About the Pfizer Health Index*:
The Pfizer Health Index is undertaken on Behaviour & Attitudes National Barometer Survey, a survey of 1,040 adults aged 16 and over, with fieldwork face-to-face and in home, to measure the perceptions of health and wellbeing that people living in this country. The study is a syndicated survey of the adult population and quota controlled to reflect the latest census of population in terms of sex, age, social class, region and area of residence. The initial survey was undertaken in 2005 (with the inaugural Pfizer Health Index published in early 2006), the second Index (drawing attention on the health needs of non-Irish national populations) was published in 2007 and the third was released in 2008 (focussing on men’s attitudes to health). In most respects the survey is identical in approach to those undertaken in previous years. Questions include; serious conditions experienced and their effect on sufferers, general perceptions of personal health, attitudes to health issues, personal short term health priorities and intentions, the relative prioritisation of health and wellbeing, and new sections on GP’s and interaction with medical services. A booster of 122 recently unemployed was added to the research this year.
Published: 19th November 2009.