Health Index: Some improvement in Irish health behaviours, but alcohol consumption remains high overall as does stress among young people

Published by: Derek Bell

  1. Perception of health remains stable in 2021, with a longer-term trend of improved health among young people.
  2. Health inequalities persist between well-off & less well-off groups.
  3. Alcohol consumption has been in decline since 2018, but remains well above global average.
  4. Younger people see lowered stress levels, but this remains significantly higher compared to the global average.


WIN International, the world’s leading association in market research and polling, has published the Annual WIN World Survey (WWS – 2020) exploring the views and beliefs of 33,236 individuals among citizens from 39 countries across the globe about climate change. The survey analyzes views and opinions related to climate change and sustainability.


Perceptions of one’s overall health

  1. Perception of being healthy in Ireland is fairly stable in 2021 and has changed little since 2018, with nearly 3 in 4 claiming to be very healthy or healthy in 2021.
  2. Meanwhile, the proportion of young people (81%) making this same claim has grown steadily since 2018 (+9% vs 2018 and + 2% vs 2020).

Suffer from stress

  1. Over 1 in 3 continue to suffer from stress in Ireland, with this steady in 2021.
  2. Stress remains significantly higher amongst 18-34-year-olds despite a decline since last year (-6%) and is also higher than global average for the age group (+10%).
  3. On a global level, Ireland has slightly higher level of stress (+2%) than global average.


  1. With a 3% drop in 2021, only 13% now claim to smoke in Ireland, putting Ireland below the global average (-5%).
  2. The habit has significant improved among those aged 35-54 (-5%) and those living in Munster (-7%) and Conn/Ulster regions (-7%).

Drink alcohol

  1. Alcohol consumption in Ireland remains high at 31%, being fairly stable as last year.
  2. While the consumption of alcohol reduced among 18–34-year-olds & those in Conn/Ulster; those in Dublin are drinking much more than last year.
  3. Consumption of alcohol in Ireland is 15% higher than the global average.

Healthy Eating

  1. Over 2 in 3 (68%) claim to eat healthy in 2021. This is higher among those aged 55+.
  2. Globally, Ireland is slightly ahead of the global average (+1%).

Doing physical exercise

  1. Irish people seem to have adopted more physical exercising during the pandemic time, with half exercising frequently in 2021.
  2. Significant growth in exercising seen among males, aged 35-54, for lower social class & those from Munster. However, despite having significantly higher levels of exercise, those aged 55+ have reduced working out since 2020 (-6%).
  3. On a global front, Ireland is significantly higher (+10%) than the global average of 40%.

Sleeping well

  1. 3 in 4 in Ireland sleep well, with this being higher among those in higher social grades as compared to lower social grades.
  2. Evident movement in sleeping pattern is seen on regional level, with improved sleep in the Rest of Leinster (+7%).
  3. Globally, Ireland sits behind the world average (-5%).


Richard Colwell, CEO of RED C Research and Vice-President of WIN International Association, said:

“It is positive to see longer term trends in improving health behaviour among the Irish population in the last few years. However, there is much to remain concerned about, in particular the fact that 1 in 2 of 18-34 year olds still claim to be suffering from stress, and also our continued reliance on alcohol, which remains well above the international norm.”


In 2021, the general perception about health remains stable compared to 2020 results (from 79% to 77%); men perceive themselves healthier than women (80% and 75% respectively). In Africa, the number of people saying that they are healthy goes up to 90%; when looking at countries, the share of people who consider themselves healthy are 93% for Vietnam and 92% for Nigeria. On the other hand, among the countries where people consider themselves less healthy, we find Chile (with 57%) and Poland (with 55%).

According to the OMS, there is inequality among people in terms of access to health services and healthy habits, which depends on variables such as socio – economic statements and birthplace conditions. However, health can also be strengthened depending on the healthy and unhealthy habits that each person has individually.

The survey takes into consideration healthy and unhealthy habits such as: eating healthy, sleeping well, doing exercises, suffering from stress, smoking, and drinking alcohol. While almost all habits were also included in previous surveys and can therefore be compared to past results, eating healthy is a newly added habit in this latest edition.

Despite more than two years have gone by since the Covid19 pandemic hit, there aren´t considerable changes compared to previous years when it comes to the habits evaluated. However, the pandemic scenario might have an effect on mental health: for example, the number of people suffering from stress is increasing over the years (31% in 2020 vs 33% in 2021). 

  1. Healthy eating

On a total level, 67% of people surveyed affirm to maintain a healthy personal daily nutrition, and the majority are women. People who tend to eat healthier are also the older generations, from 65 years onwards (76%), followed by 55-64 (69%). Moreover, Africa and APAC are the regions registering the highest percentages of people who eat healthy (86% and 70% respectively), and among the countries included in this study, we find Vietnam (91%), Philippines (87%) and Nigeria (83%).

  1. Doing physical exercise

In a similar way to last year, 40% of the participants of this survey affirm to do physical exercise constantly. Men (43%) tend to do more exercise than women (37%). Moreover, individuals with a higher level of education usually do more physical exercise (54%). In what respects to countries, India (64%), Finland (59%) and Paraguay (56%) are the ones that register the higher scores of people saying that they exercise regularly.

  1. Suffer from stress

Nowadays, more people affirm to be suffering from stress, as a probable consequence of the context of COVID – 19. Women are the most affected in this sense, as 38% of women worldwide say they suffer from stress. The same goes for people with lower economical incomes (37%) and students (40%). MENA and Europe have the highest percentages of people registering stress (42% and 35% respectively). Japan (49%), Serbia (49%) and Croatia (48%) are the countries where people seem to suffer from stress the most.

  1. Smoke

On a total level, 74% of people say smoking is not a habit, as they occasionally or never smoke. Men (22%) tend to smoke more regularly compared to women (13%). When considering one’s own occupation, it is interesting to note that there is the same number of smokers among full – time and unemployed people. Among countries, Greece, Palestine, and Turkey are the ones that rank higher (37%, 36% and 34% respectively) with people smoking very often.

  1. Drink alcohol

Indiscriminate alcohol consumption is associated with multiple sicknesses, some of them chronic. Nevertheless, drinking keeps being a widely spread habit in some countries, such as Japan (46%). Moreover, the number of men that drink alcohol (20%) is almost twice as higher as women’s (11%). In Europe, 20% of people say alcohol consumption is a frequent habit, and in the MENA region, 89% of people assures to do it occasionally or almost never.

Vilma Scarpino, President of WIN International Association, said:

‘The WIN World Survey section on Health keeps providing important insights, which become even more necessary in recent years. The high share of people adopting healthy habits is stable compared to previous years, meaning that people keep considering health an important value to take care of. Of course, there are some less healthy habits that might be difficult to overcome: in some countries, these habits might also be related to culture and lifestyle, and people are now eager to go back enjoying those habits after the pandemic, even if they’re not the healthiest ones. There seems to be a balance between caring about one’s own health, and having troubles overcoming unhealthy habits, which can both be considered a consequence of the pandemic. Overall, data point towards and optimistic result: globally, the vast majority of the population consider themselves healthy, and there is no world region where this perception scores lower than 70%.’

Media enquiries:


Richard Colwell, C.E.O., RED C Research

Derek Bell, Project Manager, RED C Research



Elena Crosilla, WIN Coordinator

+39 335.62.07.347




The survey was conducted in 39 countries using CAWI / online survey methods.

Sample Size and Mode of Field Work:

A total of 33,236 people were interviewed. See below for sample details. The fieldwork was conducted during 15th October 2021 and 18th December 2021. The margin of error for the survey is between 4.4 and 2.5 at 95% confidence level.

The global average has been computed according to the covered adult population of the surveyed countries.

In Ireland, a representative sample of over 1020 adults were conducted online. Fieldwork was conducted in November 2021.

Download the reports below:

Win World Survey – Health Index Irish Summary Results

Win World Survey – World Health index Press Release