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New CARDI funded research using TILDA Data: Vulnerable older people at greater risk from inequalities in health behaviours

New CARDI funded research, using TILDA data and data from Northern Ireland, has shown that older people on lower incomes and living in deprived areas across the island of Ireland have considerably worse health than better off people of the same age, according to a study by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

This may be linked to differences in health behaviours, especially smoking and physical inactivity. The research, led by Dr Eibhlin Hudson and funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), explores these differences by analysing existing datasets in Ireland, North and South. The findings show that older people on low incomes are more likely to smoke and have insufficient exercise. In contrast regular alcohol consumption is more common among those on high incomes.

When comparing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the research found that smoking rates among people aged 50+ are similar (18% and 17% respectively). Many older people north and south do not have enough exercise but low physical activity is much more common in Northern Ireland (54%) than in the Republic of Ireland (30%).

The research also highlighted the particular vulnerability of older people who are single or widowed and disabled or in poor health. People aged 50+ who are single, widowed or separated/divorced are more likely to smoke and have low levels of exercise.

The research team consisted of Dr Eibhlin Hudson, Trinity College Dublin (now with Novartis); Professor David Madden, University College Dublin and Dr Irene Mosca, TILDA, Trinity College Dublin.

The full report is entitled ‘Examining inequalities in health and health behaviours’ (Hudson et al., 2014). CARDI has prepared a research brief ‘Inequalities in health behaviours’ which summarises the main report and spells out some of the implications for policy and practice.

For more, visit www.cardi.ie