Pfizer Health Index 2018 finds chronic pain has the most severe impact on quality of life

Categories: Care and Featured.

The 13th Pfizer Health Index, an annual survey which charts the health perceptions, behaviours and attitudes of Irish adults, has been officially launched.

Focusing this year on the theme of ‘health of the ages’, the findings of the Index were presented by Paul Reid, Managing Director Pfizer Ireland, who was joined by guest speakers, Prof. Charles Normand, Professor of Health Policy and Management in Trinity College Dublin, John Church, CEO of Age Action Ireland, athlete and Health Index 2018 ambassador, Derval O’ Rourke.  

The Pfizer Health Index is a national study of health and wellness and focuses on attitudes and perception of health, disease incidence, illness experience and impact, health funding, interaction with medical services and levels of health insurance, among other areas. This year’s findings demonstrated that:

  • Irish people’s view on the greatest priorities for Government spending has remained the same as last year, with health as the top priority (62%), followed by education (12%) and job creation (11%);
  • The majority of people surveyed (69%) rate their health as 7 out of 10 or higher, with only 6% of those giving their health a score of 10 out of 10
  • A significant change in this year’s Index is the overall prioritisation being given to finances as the top personal concern for Irish people (32%); previously family and personal health were the top concerns listed
  • Chronic pain has the most severe impact on the quality of life for those living with a condition;
  • In terms of medical insurance levels, 29% of people surveyed have neither private medical insurance or a medical card, a 3% increase on last year. However, when we look at those under the age of 40 (20-39) that figure increases even further, with 38% having to self-fund in the event of a medical issue
  • The volume of people holding a medical card has remained at 42% and 6% of those surveyed have both private insurance and a medical card;
  • Engagement with medical professions is relatively high with 39% of those surveyed having visited their GP in the last three months for a check-up and 32% have visited a doctor as they were unwell;
  • Almost half of all women (48%) and 57% of all adults over 50 surveyed have been involved in a national screening programme this year, showing an encouraging commitment to disease prevention;



Each year, the Pfizer Health Index focuses on a particular topic with the difference between perceptions and attitudes to health by age demographic chosen for 2018. The age demographics were divided as follows; aged 20-39, aged 40-60, and aged 61 and older. Those surveyed were asked a range of questions relating to their health and wellbeing, such as what illnesses concern them most, what steps they felt they could take for the benefit of their future health, and what significant ‘life milestones’ have had the most impact on how they approach their future health.

When assessing the difference in attitudes between the ages on health matters, the Pfizer Health Index found that:

  •  Illness concerns vary quite substantially with age. Young adults (20-39) worry about mental health, diabetes and obesity while heart disease, cholesterol and arthritis feature relatively more between 40 and 60. Older adults (60+) are most concerned about cancer and Alzheimer’s;
  • Health priorities shift with age, with younger adults (20-39) focusing on appearance with diet and exercise ranking as top priorities. For those in the 40-60 bracket, reducing consumption of alcohol is the main priority and disease prevention ranks as number one among those in the 60+ lifestage;
  • More exercise and a better diet are understood across the age demographics as the key steps to take for better health in later life, with younger adults (20-39) also identifying issues and solutions that impact on mental health as a high priority for future good health;
  •  Significantly, there was also consistent agreement across the ages that if they could go back to an earlier point in their life, more exercise (56%) and a better diet (53%) are the two changes they would have made;
  • ‘Starting to feel old’ is the most transformative life experience that affects how people of all ages approach their health (37%); this is particularly true for men (39%), whereas the arrival of a child is slightly more of an impact for women (36%);
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, most believe that their happiest life stage was as a young single adult (30% in the under 40 group, and 32% in the under 60s), although those over 60 list ‘married with children’ as their happiest time.

Unveiling the Pfizer Health Index findings, Paul Reid, Managing Director of Pfizer Ireland said; Pfizer is proud to once again shine a spotlight on people’s behaviours and attitudes towards health. This is the 13th year that we have undertaken this research, during this time period we have gone from boom to bust and now we are emerging from a tough recessionary period with strong economic growth and a bright future. However, this presents a new set of challenges for public policy and government strategies. Improved health outcomes have resulted in an increase in life expectancy, the proportion of people 65 and over is growing and many people are now living longer, healthier lives. Healthy lifestyles, good nutrition, exercise, screenings and knowing your options for health care and long-term care are more important than ever before. Given the significant impact that Ireland’s ageing population will have on Ireland’s health service in the years to come, we felt it was timely to review how the different age groups feel towards their own health and wellbeing.”

Professor Charles Normand, Professor of Health Policy and Management in Trinity College Dublin said; “Starting to feel old’ is certainly a life experience the vast majority of us can expect to go through, and we need to start looking after our health now to ensure we remain healthy in older age for as long as possible. It is encouraging to see from this year’s findings that the 60 plus cohort are cognisant of maintaining their health; we need to look after this age group in our health service and ensure younger generations are as educated about the importance of health maintenance as possible.”

Health Index Ambassador, Deval O’ Rourke said; “As someone who knows first-hand the importance of both exercise and good diet on personal health, it is encouraging to see that 70% of people surveyed would mark their health as 7 out of 10.  As the results of the Index show, health is certainly a very important issue for the people of Ireland. A healthy population is a major asset for society and improving the health and wellbeing should be a priority for the people, and for government. Little changes every day can make a significant impact so we as a nation need to help empower people to make healthier choices every day.”

For the full report, click here