The Pfizer Health Index Goes Back to the Future – Celebrating a Decade of Health in Ireland

The 2015 Pfizer Health Index has revealed that following Ireland pulling out of recession, 63% of people report that they are still experiencing austerity measures with ‘finances and money’ now more important than ‘health and welfare’. The Pfizer Health Index demonstrated that personal health reduced in importance by 9% during this time – falling from 83% to 74%. The nation also agreed that health is where the greater investment should be made by the government. This is the tenth year of the Pfizer Health Index in Ireland.

Watch this informative motion graphic about the Index.

A concerning feature of the recessionary years was the move away from private health insurance and increases in the number of people with neither medical card cover nor health insurance. Since 2010, every year has seen a decline in those with health insurance, dropping from 44% in 2010 to 33% in 2014. However, this year sees a reversal of the trend with 36% of people now claiming to have health insurance. During the recession, an increasing number of people were entitled to medical cards and this rose to 44% in 2012, falling in 2013 and 2014 but it has increased to 43% in 2015. Collectively, 75% of respondents either hold private medical insurance or a medical card leaving 25% of people with neither.

Another concern during the recession was the decline in people visiting their GP – whether for a check-up or because they felt unwell. This trend now appears to be reversing with 43% reporting having visited their GP in the last three months for a check-up compared with 38% in 2014. In 2015, 31% claim to have visited their GP because they were unwell compared with just 26% in 2014.

Against this backdrop, people have become increasingly positive about their personal health. In 2005, 61% of people scored their health 8 out of 10 based on a range of criteria and this has increased to 65% in 2015. However, during this same timeframe, the incidence of people self-reporting that they are living with a health condition, increased from 33% in 2005 to 38% in 2015.

For the first time, the index also looked at the role of technology in healthcare and identified further positive steps being made to take ownership of health. 22% of people reported using a self-monitoring app with two thirds of us monitoring exercise followed by nutrition, calorie counting, sleep and medical use. 52% of people reported that the use of the app helped them to live more healthily.

However, the research showed that technology is not always helpful with 44% of people who use google to search for health conditions becoming more worried as a result of the information that they find. 15% of people reported incorrectly self-diagnosing a condition due to their online discoveries.

Speaking at the launch of the Pfizer Health Index, Professor Charles Normand, Edward Kennedy Chair of Health Policy and Management at Trinity College Dublin, said, “Despite Ireland officially being out of recession, it is clear that people are still feeling the impact of austerity in terms of their personal finances and this is impacting on healthcare in general. While we are now seeing an increase in the numbers of people with private medical insurance, and more people are becoming eligible for free GP care, there is still 25% of our population who pay the full cost of primary care and have access only to public hospital services.”

Mr Jonathan McCrea, Futureproof Presenter, Newstalk said, “It’s really encouraging to see people increasingly using technology to help to monitor or manage their healthcare. We are living ever closer to technology – driven by the introduction of the smart phone and the more recent introduction of wearable technology – all of which have increasing application for monitoring our own healthcare. It will be interesting to watch how this will evolve within the Pfizer Health Index in the years to come.”

Mr Paul Reid, Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, said; “The tenth year of the Pfizer Health Index is an opportune time to look back over the trends that we have seen in relation to our perceptions to health. Health was significantly impacted under austerity and this is reflected in the Index findings. Investing in health remains key and while 2015 saw an improved health budget, as we move to more prosperous times we must focus again on health.”

The Pfizer Health Index details the findings of a nationally representative quantitative market research survey of the health and well-being of the Irish population.