Nothing is more important in life than looking after one’s own health and welfare and that goes for sports stars as well as for the rest of us mere mortals in this period of recession.
Results of this year’s Pfizer Health Index reveal the impact that the recession is having on people’s health. The Pfizer Health Index, now in its eighth year, details the findings of a nationally representative quantitative market research survey of the health and well-being of the Irish population.
90% of people agree that depression, anxiety and mental health issues have increased since the recession. When asked in what ways has depression or mental health affected your or your extended family, the top two impacts are in relation to finances being affected and not being able to work. 36% say it caused divisions in the family; 34% say it caused other physical illnesses and about a quarter said that it caused relationship or marital difficulties. There is also significant concern around the impact of social media, with three quarters agreeing that modern technology and social media can be detrimental to young people’s health. Interestingly 45% of those with a child under 16 in the home strongly agree with this statement.
Speaking at the launch of the 2013 Pfizer Health Index, legendary hurler DJ Careydiscussed his own health experience. He said “Despite being physically healthy for years as part of the senior Kilkenny hurling team, I experienced some health scares of my own last year and no doubt the stress and pressure that I was under at the time contributed to them. Thankfully I was treated successfully for both conditions and I’m feeling great today but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to look after your health, and in particular your mental health.”
Since 2010, the Index has tracked changes in relation to private health insurance and medical cards which have seen major changes since the recession began. 2013 shows a further decrease in the number of people with insurance down 1% on 2012 to 34%, but down from 44% in 2010. While we saw an increase in the number of people with medical cards from 2010 to 2012, this has arrested and the 2013 level is now back at the 2011 level at 41%. However, the net impact of a continued fall in insurance, coupled with decreasing medical card provision means a further rise in people with no cover and in 2013 this has reached 27% which equates with 950,000 people, the highest since we began looking at this issue four years ago.
Also speaking at the launch Professor Charles Normand, Edward Kennedy Chair of Health Policy and Management at Trinity College Dublin said “International evidence has shown that countries in recession can experience a significant impact on the health of their citizens with additional strains on their health systems. While there are signs that Ireland is slowly coming out of this recession, there is still immense pressure on government to make savings on health budgets and reduce costs while maintaining an effective and efficient health service.”
Dr. Claire Hayes, Clinical Director of Aware added “I would urge anybody experiencing anxiety as a result of financial difficulties, job loss or indeed any kind of stress, to talk to someone who can help, be that a health professional or a support organisation such as Aware. Financial difficulties can seem overwhelming and it is important to access support for both strands – the mental health impact and also the financial issues themselves. Many agencies including Aware provide free, accessible supports including programmes based on cognitive behavioural therapy that can encourage people to focus on helpful actions they can take in order to make a difference to their situation.” On a positive note, almost a third of those affected by depression (30%) claimed that it brought the family closer together.
“The increase in people with neither health insurance nor medical card cover is a concern.This is of enormous public and personal significance, as an increasing number of people are vulnerable at times of ill health and sickness and the continued decline in private insurance increases pressure on public health expenditure,” ” said Mr Paul Reid,Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland.