Almost three-quarters of Irish adults aged 58 and over have two or more medical conditions
This article was published in the Journal online, and available to view here.
New research from Trinity College should provide a baseline to identify longterm impacts of the pandemic.
ALMOST THREE-QUARTERS of adults in Ireland aged 58 years and older have two or more medical conditions, according to a new report.
The report, by Trinity College Dublin’s Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), provides a picture of the social, financial, mental and physical state of Ireland’s ageing population before the pandemic dramatically impacted their lives.
Researchers say the report will serve as a useful resource for policymakers and planners tasked with identifying gaps and solutions to improve supports for older people following the unfolding of the crisis.
The chapters in the report cover key issues such as risk factors for Covid-19 infection, including frailty, multi-morbidity and medication usage; the utilisation of healthcare and home care and the types of health coverage.
Researchers said understanding the prevalence of chronic conditions (such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma), lifestyle factors that influence health across age groups and medication use is crucial for planning and delivery of healthcare during critical periods like a pandemic.
They found 74% of adults aged 58 years and older report the presence of two or more medical conditions; with 8% reporting no chronic conditions.
Multi-morbidity [co-occurring diseases] becomes increasingly prevalent as older adults age, according to the report. Almost one in six adults aged 58 years and older are frail, though researchers outline that frailty is not inevitable, and can even be avoided, delayed or reversed with appropriate and timely interventions.
Almost half of adults aged 75 years and older report regular use of five or more medications, which increases with age.
The report found 28% of older adults have both a medical card and private health insurance; 36% have a medical card only, 27% have private health insurance only, 2% have a GP visit card only, and 8% had ‘no cover’.
41% of adults aged 58 years and older provide regular help and/or care for spouses, relatives,(excluding grandchildren) neighbours and friends.
Researchers also looked at access to the internet and smartphone or tablet devices. A significant numbers (80%) of adults in this age group have access to the internet in their homes, with research showing internet access decreases with age. And 66% reported having access to a smartphone or tablet.
Of adults aged 58 years and older living alone, 36% do not have internet access in their homes. Those without access to internet and phones may face a higher risk of isolation due to a lack of information at their fingertips and connectivity online, according to the report.
Professor Rose Anne Kenny, principal investigator of TILDA, said the report provides an important baseline to help identify and assess the longer-term effects of the pandemic on their health and circumstances:
“Researchers can identify negative impacts on health and wellbeing, some positive outcomes of the crisis, such as greater resilience or improvements in digital literacy, new skills in technology or participation in new activities”
Co-author of the report, Dr Christine McGarrigle, said the report addresses the influence of lifestyle and behavioural habits, such as smoking and physical exercise, which can significantly impact health outcomes in later life:
“It also highlights the positive impact that higher levels of exercise can have on multi-morbidity and medication use, indicating that modifiable behaviours play a substantial role in healthy ageing. This report provides strong evidence to support public health initiatives that promote the adoption of positive lifestyle changes for a healthy ageing population.”
Dr Christine McGarrigle concludes:
“This report also highlights the positive impact that higher levels of exercise can have on multi-morbidity and medication use, indicating that modifiable behaviours play a substantial role in healthy ageing. This research provides strong evidence to support public health initiatives that promote the adoption of positive lifestyle changes for a healthy ageing population,” she said.”
To read the full report entitled The Older Population of Ireland on the Eve of the COVID-19 Pandemic” please visit here.