People in Ireland eat more daily portions of fruit and vegetables than in any other EU country, according to a report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Across all EU member states, just 12% of adults consume the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

However, 33% of adults in Ireland reach this target, with a further 48% consuming between one and four portions daily.

Ireland and EU countries

The figures are included in the latest OECD Health at a Glance 2022 Report, which also highlights Ireland’s progress in reducing smoking rates over the last decade.

In 2020, almost one in five adults (19%) across EU countries smoked daily, in comparison to 16% of adults in Ireland.

Smoking rates in Ireland dropped by eight percentage points from 24% in 2010. This is the second largest drop across EU countries, behind Estonia which saw its smoking rates fall from 27% in 2010 to 18% in 2020.

The report also highlights the significant threat posed by air pollution and climate change caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which the OECD states increases the risk of serious health problems including respiratory diseases, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and leukaemia.

In EU countries, exposure to fine particulate matter – a key air pollutant – is estimated to have caused the deaths of 307,000 people in 2019.

Mortality rates from this air pollutant were highest in central and eastern Europe with premature death rates at least 50% higher than the EU average of 69 per 100,000. 

Conversely, Ireland had one of the lowest rates (27 per 100,000), behind Iceland (14 per 100,000) and Norway (23 per 100,000).

Medicine costs

In addition, the report reveals how Ireland’s public coverage of pharmaceutical costs is among the most generous in the EU.

On average, government and compulsory insurance schemes cover 70% of all retail pharmaceutical spending, but in Ireland, 81% of pharmaceutical spending is covered. This compares with 85% in Cyprus and just 41% in Iceland.

The report also praises Ireland’s swift implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, which is estimated to have reduced deaths by 70%.

By the end of 2021, the average EU vaccination rate was 77% of the population, but more than 90% of the adult population in Ireland completed an initial vaccination course.