We’re a happy lot but growing fatter

IT SEEMS we irish are a shiny, happy, smiley people but are increasingly getting fatter to boot.

Ireland is the most social country in the world – and has one of the biggest appetites.

A new study on the footprint of 151 nations found more than 97% of people here have friends or family they can depend on.

In the research released by the University of Leeds, scientists found Ireland was following the Western trend of providing a good life to its population but, and here’s the rub, at a high cost to the planet.

Those men in white coats measured 11 different social markers of a good standard of living enjoyed by each country alongside seven different markers on their toll on the Earth. Ireland was on par with Canada and many other developed nations in scoring high on education, happiness and high life expectancy, but poorly when it came to the environment.

‘ Ireland is providing a good life to its people but at high cost to the planet …’

Co-author of the study Dr Andrew Fanning said: “[Ireland] is up there in terms of life satisfaction and is the highest in the world in terms of social support.”

In the study – entitled A Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries – other social barometers included employment, life satisfaction, a network of friends and family and access to education.

Out of more than 150 countries studied, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands provide their citizens with the best standard of living with all 11 items on the list.

Denmark, Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Japan and Sweden provide 10 out of 11 and the United States, Canada and Ireland provide nine.

Our ‘grand little country altogether’ emerged as sixth in the world when it came to calorie intake while Belgium was at the top of the table and Austria and (this surprised me) Turkey in second and third place.

The research showed Irish people consume more than twice the calories eaten in Somalia on a daily basis.

Another report in my in-box shows that almost a third of Irish children are now overweight and the country ranks 58th out of 200 countries for its proportion of overweight youths, new data shows.

Statistics compiled by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, and reported in The Lancet medical journal, showed a 10-fold increase in the rate of obesity among Irish boys between 1975 and 2016, and a nine -fold increase among Irish girls.

Just 1% of children in the State were classed as obese in 1975, but, four decades on, this has risen to 9% among girls and 10% among boys.

Irish boys rank 98th in the obesity charts and girls are 78th out of the 200, but there is more consistency in the country’s proportion of overweight children with both boys and girls coming in 58th place globally.

A fifth of children and teenagers in the US and a 10th of those in the UK are obese.

The publication of the research comes with the recent  introduction of the tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, the first such levy to be imposed in Ireland.

Drinks with a sugar content of 8g per 100ml will be taxed at a rate of 30 cent a litre under the new measures,  aimed at combating our growing obesity. (Representatives from the food and beverages industry have criticised the move, and say it will do little to address the fat epidemic.)

Overall, rates of obesity among children and teenagers have soared 10-fold around the world in the past four decades according to the global study.

Now, there’s food for thought …