According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), people in Ireland eat more daily portions of fruit and vegetables than in any other EU country.
In all EU member states, only 12% of adults eat the recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day. In Ireland, 33% of adults meet this goal, while 48% eat one to four servings daily. The figures are included in the OECD’s most recent Health at a Glance 2022 Report, which also highlights the progress Ireland has made over the past decade in reducing the number of smokers.
In 2020, almost one in five adults (19%) in all EU countries smoked daily, compared to 16% of adults in Ireland. The number of smokers in Ireland has fallen by eight percentage points from 24% in 2010. This is the second largest decline in all EU countries, after Estonia, where the percentage of smokers fell from 27% in 2010 to 18% in 2020.
The report also highlights the significant threat posed by air pollution and climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the risk of serious health problems such as respiratory disease, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and leukemia.
In EU countries, exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a major 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, where premature deaths were at least 50% higher than the EU average of 69 per 100,000. Ireland, on the other hand, had one of the lowest rates (27 per 100,000), behind Iceland (14 per 100,000) and Norway (23 per 100,000).
In addition, the report shows that Irish government coverage of drug costs is among the most generous in the EU.
On average, government and compulsory insurance schemes cover 70% of all retail pharmaceutical expenditure, but in Ireland 81% of pharmaceutical expenditure is covered. For comparison, in Cyprus it is 85% and in Iceland only 41%.
The report also praises the rapid rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Ireland, which is estimated to have reduced the number of deaths by 70%. At the end of 2021, the average vaccination coverage in the EU was 77% of the population, but in Ireland more than 90% of the adult population has completed an initial vaccination course.