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7 February 2011
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Health Profile - Northern Ireland

Smoking - the biggest killer


Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, responsible for around 25,000 deaths a year.

Smoking is a primary contributor to deaths from lung cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes and respiratory disease.

The high incidence of smoking-related illnesses contributes to health inequalities in Northern Ireland, and is an important factor in the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor.

Alcohol and drugs - a rise in binge drinking


A significant level of adults drink at levels considered to be harmful to health, and 'binge drinking' is on the rise.

48% of male drinkers and 35% of female drinkers engage in at least one binge drinking session a week.

Although the level of drug misuse is lower than the rest of the United Kingdom, there is an increase in the use of cocaine, as well as more misuse of prescribed drugs.

Obesity - 17% of men and 20% of women are obese


20% of boys and 25% of girls were overweight or obese at the time of their health appraisal aged five years old.

The average weight for men and women is higher than in Scotland and Wales.

At present 17% of men and 20% of women are obese. if this trend continues, it is predicted that by 2010 23% of women and 22% of men will be obese.

Mental Health - higher rates than England or Scotland


People in Northern Ireland are at greater risk of mental health than people in England or Scotland.

it is estimated that around 20% of adults may suffer mental ill-health. bewteen 10% and 20% of our teenagers will suffer from depression at some time.

Sicide rates are increasing from an average 150 per year to 213 in 2005. Suicide among young men is a serious concern.

Life Expectancy - lower than England

Elderly woman

In Northern Ireland, life expectancy for males is 75.8 years and the figure for women is 80.6 years. This is lower than the United Kingdom average.

Infant mortality rates in Northern Ireland(5.5 per 1,000 live births) are higher than rates in England (5.1), Scotland (4.9) and Wales (5.1). This is the worst infant mortality rate in the United Kingdom.

The mortality rate due to heart disease in Northern Ireland is 5% higher than the overall United Kingdom rate. The mortality rate due to respiratory illnesses is identical to Scotland, and 9% higher than England.

The gap in life expectancy between those living in the 20% most deprived electoral wards and the Northern Ireland average has remained largely unchanged since 2002.

Information provided by the Department of Health for Northern Ireland.
Last updated: 25th January 2007

The Department of Health for Northern Ireland answers our questions on the state of public health in the region.

Related Links

The website of the Northern Ireland government department.
Health and Care
A gateway to Health and Social Care Services in Northern Ireland, containing links to all local Acute and Community Hospital Trusts, General Practitioner Surgeries and Clinics, Health Boards and Agencies and central government healthcare services.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites
Department of Health, Northern Ireland

Department of Health for NI

  • The Department’s mission is to improve the health and social well-being of the people of Northern Ireland.
  • It ensures the provision of appropriate health and social care services, both in clinical settings, such as hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, and in the community, through nursing, social work and other professional services.

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