World Health Survey: Over half of all young adults in Ireland feeling regularly stressed

Published by: Derek Bell

  1. Annual Survey Shows Growing Health Inequality Between Social Groups in Ireland.
  2. Ireland’s youth see high levels of stress when compared to the global and EU average.
  3. Ireland Has Second-Highest Rate of Regular Alcohol Consumption Among 34 Countries


WIN International, the world’s leading association in market research and polling, of which RED C Research is the Irish member, has published the next release from the Annual WIN World Survey (WWS – 2020) exploring the views and beliefs of 26,757 people from 32 countries across the globe about the pandemic.  This survey release analyzes views and opinions related to the perception of health and habits of citizens.



Self-reported Health

  1. Despite the pandemic almost three-quarters (74%) of Irish people say they are healthy or very healthy, a small increase from 71% last year.
  2. However, the gap between social classes in self-reported health has increased significantly since last year. While the number of higher social grades who say they are healthy has increased by 6%, this figure has fallen by 4% for lower social grades. 80% of higher social grades now say they are healthy or very healthy, compared to only 69% for lower social grades.
  3. 18-34s are most likely to say they are healthy or very healthy (80%), a 7% increase from 2018. This compares to 69% of people aged 35-54 and 76% of people aged 55+.
  4. This places Ireland slightly below the global and European averages for self-reported health, with a similar proportion of people saying they are healthy to other European countries such as Germany and Poland.

Ireland’s Health Habits

  1. The pandemic only has a limited impact on our health habits at an overall level, with claimed exercise, stress and sleep levels all similar to those seen before Covid 19, however those in youngest 18-35 age groups are most likely to have seen change in the past year, despite believing they are healthier than ever.
  2. Over half of all 18-34 year olds in Ireland now claim to regularly feel stressed (compared to 35% across the world), and they also see a reduction in sleeping well since before the pandemic.
  3. Over a third of all adults in Ireland (36%) say that they regularly suffer from stress, higher than the global average of 31%. There is also a significant social divide in Ireland regarding stress: four in ten people in lower social grades say they suffer from stress (40%), compared to only 33% of those in higher social grades.
  4. The shutdown of pubs has little impact on alcohol consumption in Ireland, which remains significantly above the world average, with increases seen for younger age groups and those living outside of Dublin.
  5. Just under a third (31%) of all adults say that they regularly drink alcohol, only a marginal 2% decrease from last year despite the global pandemic. This gives Ireland the second highest rate of alcohol consumption among the 34 countries surveyed, behind only Japan and slightly ahead of the UK. Men in Ireland are more than twice as likely to say they regularly drink as women (42% vs 20%).
  6. Six in ten people (60%) in Ireland say that they sleep well very often or moderately often. This is a 3% decrease from last year, and 4% below the global average.
  7. Just under half of people in Ireland (49%) say that they exercise very often or moderately often. This number is significantly higher for people aged 55+ (63%) and for higher social grades (59%). Conversely, people aged 35-54 (35%) and lower social grades (38%) were significantly less likely to say they exercise regularly. This figure is 10% higher than the global average (39%), ranking Ireland 5th among the 34 countries surveyed.
  8. One in six people in Ireland (16%) say that they smoke regularly. This figure varies significantly for different social grades: more than twice as many C2DEs say that they smoke regularly as do people in the ABC1 social grades (23% vs 9%)



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

The pandemic appears at first sight to have had a limited effect on the Irish populations perception of their health, or their health-related habits.  However, it has further highlighted the health inequality between those in more well off and less well-off communities, where regularity of exercise and good health habits have been further exaggerated.  It has also uncovered that the impact of the pandemic has been greatest on those in younger age groups, who despite taking more exercise and feeling healthier, have also seen increased levels of stress and a decline in good sleep patterns in the past year. The levels of regular stress on the younger age groups in Ireland cannot be underestimated, running significantly ahead of Global and EU norms”.



Self-reported Health

  1. Despite all the negative consequences caused by the pandemic during the year 2020, 79% of the global population perceived themselves as healthy.
  2. However, despite the large majority considering themselves healthy, 20% of the population still consider themselves not healthy. Results showed that men tend to perceive themselves healthier than women. On the other hand, the survey reveals that more educated individuals perceive themselves to be healthier.
  3. While keeping in mind the broader meaning of health, citizens in Africa consider themselves among the healthiest continents (90%). On the global picture, Africa was far less hit by the pandemic in 2020 compared to other continents like Europe and Americas. On the other hand, MENA is the region with the lowest rate of health perception observed (72%). When looking at countries, citizens in Indonesia (92%), South Korea (91%) and Pakistan (91%) consider themselves healthier than citizens in Hong Kong (66%), Finland (65%) and Chile (61%), which are on the bottom of the ranking.


Sleeping Well

  1. During 2020, 64% of the global population said that they slept well regularly, an even better rate compared to last year (+3%).
  2. Men tend to sleep well more frequently than women, whereas people aged 35 to 45, probably because they’re more involved in their work lives than other age groups, tend to sleep well less often. Additionally, the higher the social class of belonging, the better they sleep; a similar tendency was observed in the relation between academic achievement and quality of sleep.
  3. While retired people, full time workers and self-employed people seem to have a better quality of sleep, housewives are the ones who sleep the worst. Having children at home for months and being more often in charge of their activities (eating, studying, sleeping, etc.) might have increased the stress within this category, causing a worse sleep quality.
  4. APAC and Europe are the regions with the best sleep quality among their citizens (69% and 64%, respectively), while the opposite occurs in the MENA region (54%). Palestine (51%), Mexico (49%) and Chile (48%) are at the bottom of the ranking.



  1. According to the results, 39% of people worldwide exercised regularly during 2020, 2% higher than in the two previous years. Nonetheless, there is still a high rate of people doing little or no exercises at all (31%).
  2. Women exercise less than men and, once again, housewives are the ones who exercise the least among other employment categories. A positive outcome is that it’s not only the youngest (from 18 to 34) who exercise the most, but also people aged 65 or more, another possible consequence of COVID-19 which is a higher threat for seniors.
  3. In Africa, Europe and APAC, 4 out of 10 people practice exercises regularly. Citizens in Finland (58%) and Spain (57%) are more likely to exercise than citizens in Peru (26%), Mexico (23%) and Chile (20%).


Suffer from stress

  1. During 2020, 31% of the population suffered from stress regularly, while only 35% do not. Once again, despite the difficult context experienced, the variation between the results from 2020 and previous years is minimal.
  2. Women aged 18-24, people with low incomes, students, unemployed, housewives and part-time workers are among the individuals who tend to suffer from stress the most. Unsurprisingly, these individuals also represent the most vulnerable population around the globe, a result that emphasizes the relation between social vulnerability and stress.
  3. While MENA is the region with the highest rates of stress within the population (37%), the region with the lowest stress rate is APAC (28%). In terms of countries, the top countries with more stressed individuals are Japan (49%) and Serbia (49%). The bottom countries are Vietnam (11%) and Denmark (13%).


Smoking and Drinking

  1. Overall, 17% of the global population smokes regularly, while 15% drinks alcohol regularly. These figures are not significantly different from last year’s figures.
  2. Overall, men smoke and drink considerably more than women (smoking: 22% vs. 11%, and drinking: 20% vs. 11%).
  3. Citizens in MENA region smoke more frequently (34%), while citizens in Africa smoke much less (4%). Palestine (36%), Lebanon (28%) and Serbia (28%) are the countries with the highest number of smokers. On the other hand, Nigeria (4%), Peru (5%) and Paraguay (5%) are the countries with least smokers.
  4. In Europe (20%) and APAC (16%) we find the most recurrent alcohol drinkers, the opposite of the habits in the MENA (4%) region. Japan (45%), Ireland (32%) and Great Britain (30%) have the highest percentages of drinkers, while Palestine (1%), Indonesia (3%) and Peru (4%) show the lowest rates.


Vilma Scarpino, President of WIN International Association, said:

Despite the difficulties faced during last year, which largely involved health and economic resources, individuals’ health perception did not change significantly from previous measurements. On one hand, the COVID19 pandemic might have made us more sensible and careful towards our own health, pushing us to keep up with good and healthy habits or to start new ones. On the other hand, being faced with such an enormous threat as coronavirus, might have led us to consider the little aspects in life as more important, and more significant when evaluating our overall health. In previous years, people might have considered themselves healthy when living without severe biological and physical conditions, while this year a healthy individual might also be someone who feels lucky just to have avoided Covid19”.



The survey was conducted in 34 countries using CAWI / online survey methods.


Sample Size and Mode of Field Work:

A total of 29,252 people were interviewed. See below for sample details. The fieldwork was conducted during October 21st and December 15th, 2020. 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 1000 adults were conducted online. Fieldwork was conducted in November 2020.

Download the reports below:

WIN World Survey – Health Index – Press Release – April 2021

WIN World Survey – World Health Index – Irish Summary Results – Final