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News and Events Archive: 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011

September 2017

One in eight older adults in Ireland are deficient in vitamin D

  • An innovative map shows vitamin D deficiency prevalence rates across Ireland
  • Provinces such as Connacht/Ulster and Munster have higher incidences of deficiency compared to Leinster across all seasons

Dublin, September 4th 2017 - Researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin have shown for the first time that vitamin D deficiency (<30 nmol/L) is common among adults over the age of 50 in Ireland. The research shows that there are wide variations in vitamin D deficiency across the different provinces of Ireland, and that these are dependent on lifestyle.

Click for a larger version

The researchers' work has been published today in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. It coincides with the international conference 'Vitamin D & health in Europe: Current and Future perspectives,' which is taking place in Cork on the 5-6th September.

Vitamin D is essential for bone metabolism and is thought to have beneficial health effects for muscle strength and non-skeletal health. Liberal voluntary vitamin D fortification of only some food products currently occurs in Ireland, and there have been calls for a wider range of foods to be fortified. Before further fortification occurs, comprehensive information is needed on the prevalence and determinants of vitamin D deficiency, particularly in older adults who are most at risk.

The TILDA researchers' paper examined the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency by age, economic status and lifestyle factors, and investigated what the main determinants of deficiency were in the older population in Ireland. These results are of relevance not just for Ireland but for all countries that experience seasonal variation in sunlight.

Key findings:

  • One in eight older adults were deficient in vitamin D and this increased to one in four during the winter period. Even during the summer period (when the body normally produces vitamin D), 5% of adults were deficient
  • Vitamin D deficiency increased with age. For example, in people over the age of 80, 37% were deficient in winter, compared with 22% of 50-59 year olds
  • Vitamin D deficiency was more common in smokers (23%), people who live alone (21%) and those from a lower socio-economic background (17%)
  • Use of vitamin D supplementation was low; only 8.5% of the over-50 population take vitamin D and this was more likely for women (13%) than men (4%), and for the non-obese (10%) than those who were obese (6%)
  • People living in the North and West of the country and those who were physically inactive were also much more likely to be deficient in vitamin D

Lead author of the study and Research Fellow at TILDA, Dr Eamon Laird, said: "This is the largest representative study of the vitamin D status of older adults ever conducted in Ireland and is also one of largest in the world. There are striking differences in the prevalence of deficiency across different physical and lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking and physical inactivity, all of which are modifiable risk factors."

"We hope our findings will provide useful data to help inform public health policy -- in particular with regards to vitamin D food fortification and the targeting of vitamin D supplements -- aimed at reducing endemic vitamin D deficiency and identifying the population groups and location areas most at risk. To place this in context, in a country such as Finland, which gets less sunlight than Ireland and is at a more northern latitude, actually has less prevalence of vitamin D deficiency than Ireland (<1% vs 13%) due to a comprehensive public health policy of supplementation and fortification."

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA, said: "Sufficient vitamin D status is needed for normal bone health and for the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions such as osteoporosis. Furthermore, new research has shown that vitamin D deficiency may also be associated with heart disease, kidney disease, brain health and diabetes."

"If these associations are confirmed in other large studies, then the high rates of deficiency seen in the older adult population are of concern and, given that vitamin D can be treated easily with supplementation, this has significant policy and practice implications for Government and health services."

TILDA is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Department of Health and Irish Life plc. This paper was also supported by funding from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (13F492) and the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI-LP3).

A copy of the paper is available by contacting Thomas Deane, details below.

Media contact:

Eamon Laird, Research Fellow, TILDA, Trinity College Dublin, at

Thomas Deane, Press officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, Trinity College Dublin, at

July 2017

TILDA provides evidence at the Citizen’s Assembly

On Saturday 8 July, TILDA Research Director Christine McGarrigle spoke at the Citizen’s Assembly, presenting TILDA evidence on "Creating Opportunities in Retirement, Evidence from TILDA". The presentation forms part of a meeting by the Assembly to consider how best to respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population.

Dr McGarrigle discussed findings from the TILDA Wave 3 Report detailing the contribution that older people make to their families and communities. Her presentation was at 15.20, and can be viewed via a live stream here.

The report is available here.

June 2017

New TILDA study examines retirement income and quality of life in older

Dublin, June 20th, 2017 –A new report released by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Trinity College Dublin, reveals that retirement income is positively associated with quality of life. The research investigates the relationship between income and quality of life in older age in Ireland.

Looking at over 8,000 people aged over 50 in Ireland the research found that individuals living in households with higher incomes experience a higher quality of life. Focusing on the 325 individuals who transitioned into retirement during the survey period (between 2009 and 2015), the report found that it is actual income in retirement, rather than the proportionate change in someone’s income from that received before retirement, that affects quality of life in older people.

Key findings:

  • Income is positively associated with quality of life in older age. Individuals in the highest quintile of household income score on average 29.6 on a quality of life measure. This compares to an average quality of life score of 26.2 for individuals in the lowest income quintile of household income. This means that those in the highest quintile score 13% higher for quality of life than those in the lowest quintile.
  • All aspects of quality of life (control, autonomy, self-realisation and pleasure) increase consistently with household income.
  • Around 31% of the overall group of Irish retirees studied report that ‘shortage of money never prevents them from doing the things they would like to do’ while around 13% report that ‘shortage of money often prevents them from doing the things they would like to do’.
  • However, differences in the proportions affected by shortage of money exist across income quintiles. For example, around 19% of retirees in the lowest income quintile report that a shortage of money often stops them from doing the things they want to do compared to only 3% of those in the highest income quintile reporting this.
  • For retirees in the lowest income quintile, 25% report that a shortage of money never stops them from doing the things they want to do compared to 40% of those in the highest income quintile.
  • Retirement income replacement rates are calculated for each individual transitioning from employment to retirement between 2009 and 2015. The retirement income replacement rate is expressed as the ratio of post-retirement pension income to pre-retirement labour income. The median replacement rate is 51.4%. For example, this means that someone with a weekly salary of €500 would be left with a weekly income of €257 on retirement.
  • Retirement income replacement rates are not associated with quality of life post-retirement. The study shows that it is the income that people are on, pre and post retirement that is related to their quality of life, not the rate at which their income changes or the relative proportion of income they maintain from pre-retirement into retirement.

Quality of life was measured through what’s known as the CASP-12 measure, a brief self-report inventory that incorporates four dimensions of quality of life (control, autonomy, pleasure, self-realisation) specifically developed for use with older people. Control looks at the ability to actively participate in one’s environment; autonomy looks at things like how health or a shortage of money affects a person’s ability to do the things they want to do; self-realisation regards satisfaction with life so far and feelings about the future while pleasure relates to the sense of happiness from engaging with life.

Lead author of the report Dr Irene Mosca, TILDA Research Fellow said: "The finding that shortage of money does not seem to be an important issue for the majority of Irish retirees might be attributable to the fact that consumption patterns do change over time. Compared to when in employment, retirees are more likely to have more time to shop around, to have paid off their mortgage, to have fewer dependants and not to have to save extra for their retirement. "

Dr Mosca continues "Overall, the findings of this report suggest that it is the income that people are on, pre and post retirement that affects their quality of life, not the rate at which their income changes. It is important to note, however, that a limitation of this analysis is that it only examines follow-up after retirement of up to a maximum of 2 years. More waves of TILDA will inform if these relationships between income and quality of life and replacement rates and quality of life are sustained over time".

David Harney, Chief Executive, Irish Life Group said that, as a long-term supporter of TILDA, Irish Life was particularly interested in this piece of research. "The findings are consistent with our analysis of peoples’ spending patterns in retirement which showed that the majority of people had reduced spending power compared to when they were working. However, consumption patterns also change in retirement as people have less outgoings. The strong association between income and quality of life in older age again highlights the need for people to save for retirement. We recommend a target of one third of salary, plus the state pension, for people to enjoy a comfortable retirement," he said.

TILDA is funded by the Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and Irish Life plc. Irish Life has recently committed to extending its support for a further five years.

The full report is available here.

For more information contact:
Dr Irene Mosca, Research Fellow, Trinity College Dublin, at
Dr Sanna Nivakoski, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, at
Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Science, Trinity College Dublin, at

Prof. Susie O'Callaghan awarded 2017 Provost's Teaching Award.

Congratulations to TILDA Research Fellow, Prof. Susie O'Callagan, who has been awarded a Provost's Teaching Award. This award is in recognition of enthusiasm and commitment in ensuring students receive quality teaching and learning and celebrates academic staff who have made an outstanding contribution in the pursuit of teaching excellence in the University.

Read more about the award here.

May 2017

May Measurement Month

May Measurement Month is a global initiative led by two organisations representing the world’s leading cardiologists and researchers specialising in hypertension — the International Society of Hypertension and the World Hypertension League.

During May 2017, millions of people will have their blood pressure measured in one of the biggest public screening exercises the world’s ever seen.

Every year 10 million people around the world die needlessly because of high blood pressure, making it the planet’s single biggest killer. They will suffer a stroke, have a heart attack, or die from another cardiovascular complication linked to hypertension — the medical term for high blood pressure.

To find out more about the initiative and how you can take part in it either by getting screened or setting up a screening site, please click here.

April 2017

Only one in ten older adults in Ireland rely on public transport - new TILDA report

  • 58% of adults aged 50 and over living in rural areas rate the public transport services in their area as poor or very poor
  • Report authors stress need for improved transport networks that meet the needs of older people, especially in rural areas.

April 13th, 2017:

A new report launched today by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin and supported by the Road Safety Authority shows that most older adults rely on cars for transport, as opposed to public transport. It details major differences in the use of public transport between Dublin residents and those living in rural Ireland and reports a serious level of dissatisfaction with rural public transport amongst the over 50s living outside Dublin.

The report details how patterns of transport use change with increasing age and highlights the importance of accessibility to quality transport options for social participation, mental health and wellbeing. The report authors suggest that as the population ages, there is an increasing need for improved transport networks and services that meet the needs of older adults, especially in rural areas.

Key findings:

  • Mode of transport used:
    • Nine out of ten adults aged 50 years and over in Ireland (89%) travel mainly by car, as a driver or passenger.
    • Just under one in ten adults aged 50 years and over (9%) mainly use public transport.
    • One-quarter of adults living in Dublin city/county rely mainly on public transport compared to just 2% of adults in rural areas, reflecting the vast differences in transport services available.
    • Quality of public transport: 58% of adults aged 50 and over living in rural areas rate the public transport services in their area as poor or very poor. Common issues include the limited bus routes or threatened closure of existing routes, inconvenient schedules and low frequency of services.
    • Free travel pass: Almost one in three Dublin based adults with a free travel pass use public transport (29%) compared to just 10% of adults in other town/cities and 3% of those living in rural areas. For a substantial proportion of older adults, a free travel pass seems to have limited benefit.
  • Effect of age on transport patterns:
    • As people get older, they are less likely to drive themselves and more likely to rely on lifts from others. This is particularly evident in women where 72% of 50-64 year olds drive themselves compared to 30% of those aged over 75, while 55% of women over 75 travel mainly as car passengers.
    • Use of public transport increases only marginally with age, which may reflect both the greater convenience of travelling by car and the lack of suitable public transport options available.
  • Effects on lifestyle and health:
    • One in five adults aged 75 years and over and living in rural areas (19%) indicate that the lack of local transport facilities affects their lifestyle. 12-18% of the same age group indicate that reduced frequency of driving or no longer driving affects their ability to socialise, attend business-related appointments and health/social care appointments.
    • Adults whose main mode of transport is driving themselves or travelling by public transport report greater participation in social activities and volunteering compared to those who rely on lifts from others.
    • Non-drivers (including those who used to drive in the past) report higher levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness and lower quality of life compared to current drivers.
  • 75% of households own at least one car and three quarters of those who drive regularly, do so every day.

Dr Orna Donoghue, TILDA Project Manager and one of the authors of the report, commented: "Many individuals, especially those in rural areas, must travel to access key services such as shops, banks, post offices and health and social care services. In recent years, many of these rural services have closed and moved to larger towns and cities, which can make it more difficult for those who rely on lifts from others and/or public transport to access these services as regularly and as easily as they once did. In many cases, a car is the only way for these individuals to access these services and interact with others in their communities."

Dr Donoghue continued: "A reduction in mobility, driving or available public transport options can also affect people’s ability to attend events and social occasions and this can represent a huge lifestyle shift for older adults. TILDA reports have repeatedly shown that participation in social and leisure activities outside of the home is important for both health and social benefits".

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA noted "A two-fold increase in the Irish population aged 65 years and over has been projected for 2041 which will lead to an increase in the number of older drivers. However, as people get older, their patterns of transport use will change meaning that greater numbers of people will rely on public transport or family and friends for getting around. Consequently, as the population ages, we need to address the challenge of improved transport networks and services that meet the specific needs of older adults, especially in rural areas. Retaining public transport links and/or identifying alternative means of providing transport is required, and this is especially pertinent given the current challenges to the provision of public transport."

TILDA is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Department of Health and Irish Life plc. This report was supported by the Road Safety Authority.

Media contact:

Orna Donoghue, Project Manager, TILDA, Trinity College Dublin, at

Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Science, Trinity College Dublin, at

March 2017

New TILDA report on ageing in Ireland launched today

March 7th, 2017: The third major report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin was published today. This report presents findings from Wave 3 of TILDA, which impact on the health and well-being of Ireland’s adult population aged 54 years and over and maps changes that have occurred since the first wave of TILDA data collection in 2010.

The findings demonstrate that the over 50s adult population continue to make substantial contributions to their families and the communities in which they live. However, many treatable conditions and serious health challenges such as high cholesterol and hypertension remain undiagnosed and untreated four years later. In addition to increased obesity rates and poor adherence to dietary guidelines in older adults, these undiagnosed and untreated conditions contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lower quality of life. While some screening programmes, such as those for cancer and influenza are working, the study authors believe that there are areas that require fresh policy drives.

Established in 2006 for an initial 10-year period with funding of €29 million from the Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life, TILDA at Trinity College Dublin has become the ageing ‘laboratory’ for generating and analysing data to impact policy and inform all the ageing research domains. As a national longitudinal study of 8,504 people aged 50 and over in Ireland, it has laid the foundation for an enormous body of research in Trinity and other Irish institutions, generating insight and discovering solutions as Ireland and the world faces the challenge of an ageing population.

To continue this research over the next five years, TILDA was recently awarded continued funding with a grant of €10 million from the Department of Health and €5 million from the Atlantic Philanthropies with continued support from Irish Life. This new round of funding will enable TILDA to strengthen its national and international reputation as a highly valuable longitudinal study on ageing.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA said: "The good news is that Irish adults over 54 years continue to make a tremendous contribution to our society. In this report, TILDA has further identified important risk factors which, if modified or treated can make a big difference to positive health and well-being."

Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said: ""Today’s report confirms that older people make an enormous contribution to Irish society. The health findings of Wave 3 show that we have a way to go in optimising the health and wellbeing of older people. My Department and the HSE will examine these findings with a view to identifying the responses we need to ensure the best outcomes for older people. As a longitudinal study with a health assessment, TILDA is a critical source of evidence to better understand ageing in Ireland over a sustained period of time and across a number of domains. I am very happy that the Department of Health has been able to provide €10 million over the next five years to support the continuation of TILDA. I look forward to working with TILDA to ensure that policy making is more and more based on good research and hard evidence."

Key findings from the latest report:

Treatable conditions that contribute to disability such as pain, urinary incontinence, hearing loss, depression are common and often untreated and/or under reported/diagnosed

  • 1 in 7 older adults in Ireland experience urinary incontinence; almost 1 in 5 in older age groups experience it; it is up to three times more common in women.
  • Despite the availability of treatments, a high burden of symptoms and significant impact on quality of life, mood and social participation, only 3 out of 5 report their symptoms to a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional.
  • Half of adults aged 75 years and over experience some hearing loss. Older men in particular experience difficulty following a conversation with multiple people due to hearing loss, thus leading to lower social participation and quality of life, and more loneliness and depressive symptoms.
  • Despite the availability of financial support for hearing aids in Ireland, their use is low with only 21% who report fair or poor hearing, using hearing aids.
  • 1 in 20 older adults in Ireland experienced a major depressive episode in the last year.
  • Only 30% are prescribed appropriate medical therapy for depression.
  • Depression has a significant detrimental effect on the health and independence of older people in Ireland.
  • Pain is a common complaint affecting a third of adults in Ireland, with the majority reporting chronic back pain.

High obesity rates and poor adherence to dietary guidelines in older adults
  • The majority of older adults do not meet the 2012 Department of Health Food Pyramid recommendations.
  • 76% do not meet the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake.
  • 68% over consume food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar.
  • There has been an increase in central obesity (a substantially increased waist circumference), particularly in women aged 50-64 (57% at Wave 3 versus 49% at Wave 1) highlighting the growing problem of obesity.
Health service utilisation has increased for the over 80s
  • There has been significant increased ED attendance (from 16% to 25%) and hospital admission (16% to 26%) in the oldest old, i.e. those over 80 years, compared with 2010.
  • Length of stay in hospital is significantly longer in the oldest patients. These increases in ED attendance and hospital admissions will likely have knock on consequences for hospital and community services.
The prevalence of untreated ‘treatable’ conditions has not changed in 4 years and requires a fresh policy drive
  • TILDA conducts both objective and subjective assessments of health, whereby a discrepancy between diagnosed and undiagnosed disorders can be detected.
  • At Wave 1, TILDA reported significant discrepancies for hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, osteopenia and atrial fibrillation in the order of up to a 40% mismatch between TILDA’s objective identification of these conditions and a diagnosis by an individuals’ GP.
  • The prevalence of undiagnosed disorders was almost unchanged 4 years later, meaning that this mismatch persists and despite the evidence, there have not been increased diagnoses or management of these existing conditions
Falls are common and one in five necessitate hospital attendance
  • 37% of older adults experienced a fall between Wave 1 and Wave 3 (2010 and 2014), rising to 40% in men and 60% in women aged 75 years and over.
  • 18% sustained a fall causing injury and which required hospital attendance - this equates to 60,000 people per year in Ireland.
Increased uptake in national screening programmes for cancer and influenza
  • Between 2012 and 2014, the uptake of national screening programmes in those who had not previously used the service has increased by 10%.
    • by 9% for influenza to 48% overall
    • by 6% for breast mammograms to 55% overall
    • by 12% for breast lump checks to 65% overall
    • by 10% to 82% for cholesterol testing overall
    • by 11% to 71% for prostate cancer screening (PSA and digital examination) overall
Older Irish adults, far from being reliant on social supports, are the net contributors to their extended family and the communities in which they live
  • Adults aged 54 years and over who have children are more likely to provide financial assistance to their children (48%) than receive financial help from them (3%).
  • Half of adults aged 54 to 74 years provide regular childcare for their grandchildren for an average of 36 hours per month. This facilitates labour market participation of parents and flexibility of schedules for unanticipated events.
  • More than half volunteered during the previous year and 17% do so at least once per week.
  • Volunteering, regular social participation, minding grandchildren and supporting children is significantly associated with better mood and quality of life.
  • 18% sustained a fall causing injury and which required hospital attendance - this equates to 60,000 people per year in Ireland.
Health care coverage and health insurance requires more flexibility for a competitive market
  • VHI Healthcare remains the dominant provider of private health insurance policies for this age group with 59% having their policy with VHI.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny said "This pervasive attitude in society and healthcare that health decline, chronic conditions, and falls are just a part of ageing and therefore are not being sufficiently diagnosed or treated must be changed as it is simply not true. It can have a major impact on people’s quality of life as they age, as well as impacting unnecessarily on the health system."

Professor Kenny continued: "What these latest results from TILDA have shown is that far from later years being a time characterised by decline and increased dependency, older adults continue to make valuable contributions to society, with many characterised by active citizenship and participation in the lives of their families and their communities."

Minister Corcoran Kennedy continued: "From my own point of view as Minister for Health and Wellbeing, the high rate of overweight and obesity among older adults continues to be a cause for concern, as is the lack of adherence to the food pyramid. My Department has recently published an obesity policy which includes a focus on older adults, and we have published a revised food pyramid for the entire population, with specific food portion guidelines for various age groups including older adults. We are also working on a nutrition policy which will include a focus on the over 50s."

Dr Mairead O Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said: "If our future health services are going to meet the needs of an ageing population, we need a picture of what it will look like. TILDA has made great advances in recent years to help understand the health, social and economic aspects of ageing. What we need to do is ensure this evidence informs policy and practice. As part of managing this renewed government investment of €10 million, the Health Research Board will actively work with TILDA and the Department of Health to set up a dedicated Knowledge Translation Group. The aim will be to ensure that we ask the right questions to inform future health needs and that the data gathered reaches the right people to underpin changes in policy and practice."

Key recommendations: Treatable conditions that contribute to disability
  • There is a need to challenge the notion that urinary incontinence is an inevitable part of ageing, and efforts should also focus on modifying risk factors for urinary incontinence such as smoking and obesity.
  • Screening for hearing loss at an earlier stage, and promotion of uptake of hearing aids, has the potential to improve the ageing experience for many.
  • The prevalence of depression and of treated depression has not changed over the past four years emphasizing the necessity for new approaches to raise awareness among older people as well as their families and healthcare professionals. Efforts to reduce the stigma around mental health in later life and to encourage older people to seek help from a healthcare professional when they are experiencing symptoms of depression are now imperative.
  • There is a need to increase awareness about pain and adequate pain management.
Health service utilisation for the over 80s
  • The increase in ED attendance and hospital admissions for the over 80s has significant policy implications for implementation of admission avoidance services and for dedicated tailored care of the oldest old in emergency settings.
  • Innovations in early detection of risk factors and earlier interventions to avoid admission should be an important policy focus.
Prevalence of untreated ‘treatable’ conditions
  • Hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, osteopenia and atrial fibrillation are the key risk factors for stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and injurious falls. Innovative policy interventions to raise awareness of these common and treatable disorders is critical.
  • National falls and syncope prevention services should be introduced. These are poorly served at present in Ireland, however there is strong evidence for benefit in falls and fracture prevention, coupled with significant reductions in healthcare costs and in particular in hospital costs.
Health insurance
  • Given that flexibility to switch insurer is key to a competitive market, the high market share of one health insurer merits a full examination and possibly changed policy considerations.

Professor Kenny said: "This third series of findings from TILDA shows that there are opportunities to target policy initiatives towards common disabling conditions in adults as they age. Our findings emphasise that there are still a significant proportion of Irish adults who remain undiagnosed and untreated, and many of these conditions put people at risk of falls and cardiovascular disease. TILDA provides a valuable source of research on the current and future trends of an ageing population and will greatly assist clinicians and policy makers by identifying groups most at risk. Consequently, limited resources can be distributed to secure maximum impact so that our later years can be independent, active and healthy."

As a result of the funding support to TILDA over the past ten years:

  • TILDA is engaged in more than 45 national research collaborations and more than 25 international collaborations.
  • TILDA has reached over 10,000 social media learners through their free online course, Strategies for Successful Ageing, which will run again for Positive Ageing Week, this September 26th 2016.
  • The TILDA study is harmonised to 13 other international longitudinal studies on ageing which allows

The full report is available here.

Media Contact

Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Science, Trinity College Dublin, at

Editors Notes:
Additional information about TILDA ‘waves’ and data collection

Every four years, TILDA at Trinity undertakes a very comprehensive health assessment with the majority of the more than 8000 people who are taking part in this longitudinal study. Alongside this, every two years researchers undertake very detailed interviews with the participants in their homes. During each wave of research, new areas of data are added bringing new issues to light and building up a more comprehensive picture of older people in Ireland.

The new data provides TILDA with crucial objective health data and updated social, health and socioeconomic information which they use to uncover issues and patterns affecting older people in Ireland.

Their findings help to inform and shape policy and practice with the aim of improving and lives and well-being of adults over 50 in Ireland.

TILDA is a large prospective cohort study examining the social, economic, and health circumstances of 8,175 community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and older, resident in the Republic of Ireland. TILDA provides a valuable source of research on the current and future needs of an ageing population to inform policy responses to population ageing.

It is noteworthy that TILDA has provided information for in excess of 59 policy and stakeholder relevant publications. As data collection is repeated every two years, the impact of policy initiatives can be monitored longitudinally. This underscores the rich contribution of the dataset to the experience of ageing in Ireland.

February 2017

Sexual activity of Ireland’s older adults analysed in new TILDA research

February 14th, 2017:

  • Study finds majority of adults over 50 are sexually active on a regular basis.
  • Being sexually active is linked with better health and more positive perceptions of ageing
  • Dublin, February 14th, 2017

    A new study released by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing at Trinity College Dublin on Valentine’s day paints a positive picture of the little studied and infrequently discussed sexual lives of older adults in Ireland. The research, which involves more than 8000 adults over the age of 50, has found that frequent sexual activity is the norm with 59% being sexually active and of those, 69% sexually active weekly or monthly.

    The researchers found that being sexually active has positive implications for a person’s health and their perception of ageing. They also found differences between men and women in terms of importance attributed to sex and frequency of sexual activity as each gender got older. The study also paints a picture of strong relationships amongst Ireland’s older adults with a large majority of people reporting that they had a very close relationship with their spouse or partner and living with a spouse or partner being a key determinant in whether someone is sexually active.

    The key findings included:


    • 59% of adults aged over 50 in Ireland are sexually active (had sex in the past 12 months).
    • One third (33%) of sexually active adults were sexually active once or twice a week and more than one third (36%) were sexually active once or twice a month.
    • Being sexually active is less likely in older age groups with three quarters (75%) of those aged 50 to 64 being sexually active compared to just under one quarter (23%) of those aged 75 being sexually active.
    • Men reported more sexual activity than women at all ages.
    • The decline in women’s sexual activity with age was more rapid than that of men. Women are more likely than men to be widowed at older ages which may go some way to explaining this difference for older women.

    • In all those aged 50 and over, being sexually active is largely dependent on having a spouse or cohabiting partner. Three quarters (75%) of those who are married or cohabiting report being sexually active in the past year, compared to 34% of single, separated or divorced respondents, and 13% of widowed respondents. This trend is seen across all age groups.
    • However, a small proportion (9%) of currently unmarried or non-cohabiting respondents report having a romantic or intimate partner. Of those with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the large majority are sexually active (88%).
    • A higher proportion of men attribute importance to sex than women with 80% of men reporting that sex is at least somewhat important in their lives compared to 56% of women.
    • The majority of those studied reported that their relationship with their spouse or partner is very close (72% of men and 63% of women). Reporting a very close relationship is associated with higher frequency of sexual activity.
    Health and well being
    • Sexually active adults tend to be more positive in their perceptions of ageing. They are less likely to consider themselves old and less likely to believe that ageing has negative consequences.
    • Sexual activity is related to health; those who consider themselves to be in better health are more likely to be sexually active, as well as those without long term conditions or disabilities, and those with fewer depressive symptoms.

    Lead author of the report Joanna Orr, TILDA researcher said: "Our research shows that sexual activity is an important part of life for many of those aged 50 and over in Ireland, including significant proportions of those in their 60s, 70s and beyond. Continued research into this area is not only important for understanding the links between sex and health and happiness, but also to dispel the myth that sexual activity is incompatible with advancing age. It is important that health and social care professionals working with older populations are capable of respecting this aspect of individuals’ lives, and take this into consideration when giving advice and making decisions regarding their wellbeing."

    Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA said: The data concurs with international data and emphasizes the contribution of sexual activity to quality of life and good physical and mental health. Where difficulties with sexual activity are present, effective treatments are available and we anticipate that the new data will reinvigorate GPs and healthcare professionals to enquire about patients’ sexual activity as part of routine clinical assessment and care."

    Media Contact

    Joanna Orr, TILDA researcher and Irish Research Council (Government of Ireland) Postgraduate Scholar, Trinity College Dublin
    Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Science, Trinity College Dublin, at

    December 2016

    Study finds new cardiovascular predictor of mortality in older people

    December 6th, 2016:

    Research from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) shows for the first time that the speed of heart rate change in response to standing up predicts mortality in older people.

    When we stand up our heart rate speeds up then settles. The rate at which this happens in older people has been shown for the first time to predict mortality four years later according to new research from TILDA published in Circulation Research, a leading journal of the American Heart Association.

    The team at Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with researchers from Harvard University’s Center for Population and Development Studies found that the speed of heart rate recovery in the initial 20 seconds after a person stands predicts the likelihood of dying over four years in older people.

    The research team went a step further by dividing participants into groups based on their speed of heart rate recovery. Those in the slowest heart rate recovery group were 7 times more likely to die over the four year period compared with those in the fastest heart rate group. They remained 2.3 times more likely to die even when the researchers took account of other known risk factors for mortality and for heart rate such as age, diabetes, lung disease, socio-economic status, smoking, dietary factors, and body mass index.

    The research involved 4475 TILDA respondents aged 50 years and over who completed a detailed cardiovascular health assessment at the TILDA health centre at Trinity in 2011 and were followed up four years later. Participants in the study rested in a lying position for 10 minutes during which time their heart rate and blood pressure were monitored. Participants were then asked to rise from the lying position to a standing position [Figure 1].

    This simple maneuver represents a major cardiovascular challenge causing the heart to beat faster as it tries to compensate for the drop in blood pressure that occurs when a person stands up after lying down. The heart beat then returns towards its baseline or normal rate and it is the speed of this recovery to baseline that is the key factor. The faster it returns to normal, the better.

    Commenting on the findings, the author of the report and Senior Research Fellow with TILDA, Dr Cathal McCrory, remarked that: "Our study shows that the speed of heart rate recovery in response to standing is an important marker of health and vitality that could be assessed quite readily in a clinical setting such as a hospital. It represents a new and potentially important biomarker of cardiovascular ageing that is useful for screening purposes."

    Also commenting on the findings, Principal Investigator of TILDA, and Director of the Falls and Syncope Unit at St James Hospital, Dublin, Professor Rose Anne Kenny commented: "Changing from lying or sitting to standing postures is a repeated activity throughout the day and poses a challenge to the cardiac system to maintain steady blood pressure and heart rate and thus lower stress on the system. We are excited by the potential to help people improve their heart rate recovery, possibly by simple strategies such as individualised exercise and to use these heart rate measures as a means of monitoring how well our interventions are working."

    Figure 1: Heart Rate and Blood Pressure Response to Standing among 4475 Participants in the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)

    Legend: Figure 1 shows the average heart rate and blood pressure response to standing among 4475 participants who completed the active stand in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). The vertical axis represents values of heart rate in beats per minute (bpm) and values of systolic and diastolic blood pressure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Resting values of heart rate and blood pressure were measured 60 seconds prior to standing. Heart rate rises rapidly in the initial 10 seconds after standing to combat the drop in blood pressure that occurs when a person stands from a lying position. The speed of heart rate recovery (i.e. decline in heart rate) between 10 and 20 seconds after standing predicts an individual’s risk of mortality over a four-year period.

    The Irish Longitudinal study on Ageing was funded by the Department of Health, the Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life. Dr Cathal McCrory was funded by a Health Research Board (HRB) Interdisciplinary Capacity Enhancement Award (grant number: ICE/2011/7)

    The paper is available here

    For media queries contact:

    Dr Cathal McCrory, Senior Research Fellow, TILDA, Trinity College Dublin, at

    Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Science, Trinity College Dublin, at

    October 2016

    Changes in entitlement to medical cards results in changes in number of GP visits for over 50s

    October 27th, 2016:

    A new report launched today by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin, details the impact that changes to an older person’s entitlement to a medical card has on their use of health services, such as GP visits, flu vaccines, medications and hospital care. The report authors found that changes in people’s entitlement to medical cards are associated with changes in their use of GP services and level ofmedications dispensed.

    Using data from two waves of TILDA in 2010 and 2012 they found that in the over 50s:

    • Gaining a full medical or GP visit card is associated with 1.3 extra GP visits per annum. Compared to the level of GP visiting for this group in 2010, which was 3 visits, this represents an increase of approximately 43 per cent.
    • For those who lose a full medical or GP visit card, the number of GP visits falls by 1.2 visits per annum. This is equivalent to a fall of approximately 29 per cent from the 2010 level which was 4 annual visits.
    • Gaining a full medical card was associated with a significant increase in the numbers of medications taken regularly.
    • Getting a medical card was not, however, associated with any significant changes in the probability of a flu vaccine, the number of emergency department visits, outpatient visits or inpatient nights.
    • 12.6 per cent of the over 50s who did not have a full medical or GP visit card in 2010, gained one by 2012.
    • For those with a full medical or GP visit card in 2010, just 3.5 per cent had lost their full medical or GP visit card by 2012.
    • The researchers found that in 2012, 39% of the over 50s had a full medical or GP visit card and no private health insurance (PHI); 18% had dual cover, i.e. a full medical or GP visit card and PHI; 33% had PHI only; and 10% had neither a full medical/GP visit card nor PHI ‘no cover’.

      In summer 2015, however, free GP care for all children aged under 6 years of age, and all adults aged 70+ years was introduced. In May 2016, the new Government announced a commitment to an extension of free GP care to all those under 18 years of age.

      Dr Anne Nolan, one of the authors of the report, commented: "These findings have important implications for the Irish healthcare system as free GP care is extended to all under 6s and over 70s and as we move towards universal healthcare. In the context of extensions in free GP care, it is crucial to understand current patterns of healthcare utilisation, not only for highlighting the extent to which the current system leads to financial barriers to accessing healthcare services, but also for forecasting the likely demand implications of reform proposals so that policymakers can cost the proposals and plan effectively."

      Dr Nolan continued: "One of the key questions is whether the increase in the use of GP services and medications that we observe upon receipt of a full medical/GP visit card reflects an increase in beneficial care and/or whether those who lose a full medical/GP visit card are foregoing necessary care. This would require more detailed research on diagnoses, length of consultation, health outcomes etc."

      Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA noted "Data from TILDA provide a unique opportunity to explore how changes in access to healthcare services impact on the use of healthcare in Ireland. As further waves of TILDA data become available, the impact of public healthcare entitlements on health outcomes can be investigated".

      The full report is available here.

      September 2016

      Topic Report: The impact of frailty on public health nurse service utilisation. Finding from The Irish longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)

      26 September 2016

      A new report by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing on older frail people’s use of public health nursing services in Ireland was launched today by Dr Lorna Roe of TILDA and the Centre for Health Policy and Management, Trinity College Dublin at the annual general meeting of the Institute of Community Health Nursing. The report examines the demographic and healthcare entitlements of older frail Irish people utilising Public Health Nursing services. The study was commissioned by the Institute of Community Health Nursing (ICHN).

      Key Findings include:

      • 24% of community-living Irish people aged 65 years and older are frail, 45% are pre-frail.
      • 57% of Public Health Nursing service users aged 65 years and older are frail.
      • Less than one third of frail older people access the Public Health Nursing service.
      • Frail older people’s healthcare entitlement, living arrangements, disability and severity of frailty are all important determinants for accessing the Public Health Nursing service.
      • The prevalence of frailty in those aged 65 years and older varied from 17% to 29% across Community Healthcare Organisation.

      Commenting on the study, the lead author, Dr Lorna Roe said "These findings raise questions about the role of the Public Health Nurse in the care of older people in particular regarding the objective identification of frail older people in practice and access and entitlement to Public Health Nurse services for an increasingly older population. Further research is warranted to examine differing intensities of PHN delivery to older people with varying levels of frailty."

      The full report is available here

      Dr Lorna Roe was previously funded as a scholar on the Health Research Board structured PhD Scholars Programme in Health Services Research.

      Uncovering the secrets of successful ageing - TILDA explores decade of research to understand a generation

      From heart conditions to caring for grandchildren and from undiagnosed diabetes to the power of positive thought, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) has spent a decade understanding Ireland’s older generation. Trinity College Dublin will celebrate that milestone with 600 of the 8500 participants at a special event today, at which researchers and participants will consider the critical impact this research continues to have on the lives of older people.
      Such is the breadth and depth of the subjects TILDA’s research covers that policy makers, NGOs and others have used the findings as the evidence base for 52 policy and strategy documents covering: transport; health; jobs; pensions; carers; residential and home care; health and road safety public awareness campaigns; capacity planning for services; medical care and practice; IT; health insurance; dementia prevention; volunteering; taxation and the economy.

      The TILDA research team and principal investigator, Professor of Medical Gerontology at Trinity, Rose Anne Kenny, will give examples of how this research is changing policy and practice for older adults.

      For example:
      • When TILDA revealed two thirds of older people have high blood pressure – often unknown to the individual despite the risk it poses to their heart and brain health – TILDA, with funding from the HRB, rolled out a nationwide programme to community health nurses to encourage more frequent blood pressure monitoring.
      • TILDA measurements on walking speeds revealed that one in three older adults cannot cross the street in the time allotted at signalised crossings. TILDA researchers are now working with local authorities to assess signal timing settings and are providing evidence for public safety campaigns with the Road Safety Authority.
      • Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is a common cause of stroke, heart failure and dementia. TILDA found that the prevalence of Afib was 2.3% in the population, rising to 20% in men aged over 80 years. Of those with an arrhythmia, one third were unaware of the arrhythmia and one third were incorrectly treated. The Irish Heart Foundation translated these findings into a national awareness campaign and now, the National Screening Programme Guidelines use this TILDA data.
      Key facts about TILDA’s first ten years:
      • In addition to the original funding from the Department of Health, Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life of over €28 million, since 2006, TILDA has also raised additional grant funding for research projects of €4.6 million;
      • TILDA has 34 staff including 14 post-doctoral researchers and 8 students and has trained 28 PhDs and post-doctoral fellows, 140 field workers and 25 research nurses;
      • The TILDA team have authored 108 papers in peer reviewed publications as well as 23 reports, topic reports and research briefs;
      • More than 1100 people have access to anonymised TILDA data for their own research projects, both nationally and internationally;
      • TILDA is engaged in more than 45 national research collaborations and more than 25 international collaborations;
      • TILDA has reached over 10,000 social media learners through their free online course, Strategies for Successful Ageing, which will run again for Positive Ageing Week, this September 26th 2016;
      • The TILDA study is harmonised to 13 other international longitudinal studies on ageing which allows cross country comparisons of key indicators of health, wealth and happiness.
      Professor Kenny said: “One of the greatest demographic and social transformations facing Ireland is the ageing of its population, increased life expectancy and a reduction in fertility rates. Globally this will see proportions of people 60 and over increase from 11.7% today up 21% by 2050 equating to 2 billion people worldwide. Whereas global ageing carries many challenges, it also presents opportunities. By providing high quality data, we can drive informed decision making at all levels and propel ageing research in Ireland into a position of global leadership.”

    Professor Kenny continued: “The TILDA team wish to pay tribute to TILDA participants who have helped us to unmask the important and often silent contribution that older adults make to Irish society. The participants have contributed to a rich legacy which will ensure a better quality of life for future generations by helping us to understand the process of ageing. This understanding is coupled with important information to help governments to make efficient policy decisions to optimise health and economic success as populations age.”

    Established in 2006, TILDA was designed to provide an evidence base for understanding ageing in Ireland and beyond. 8500 participants are interviewed at home every two years and take part in an in-depth health assessment every four years. Researchers gather detailed information about their health, wealth and social structures and are able to track changes in people’s physical and emotional wellbeing over time. The research is helping them pinpoint the lifestyle choices, behaviours and strategies that prove to be the most successful for a positive ageing experience.

    The study was initially funded by a philanthropic gift from Irish Life and from Atlantic Philanthropies in addition to funding from the Department of Health.

    Using publicly archived TILDA datasets

    Delivered by TILDA in conjunction with the Irish Social Science Data Archive (ISSDA) and Gateway to Global Aging.

    Date: 9th September 2016
    Venue: Trinity College Dublin
    Cost: Free

    10am - 1pm: Introduction to publicly available TILDA datasets.

    • Overview of TILDA.
    • Accessing and using TILDA data, available through ISSDA.
    • Accessing and using the digital library and harmonised TILDA dataset,
    • through the Gateway to Global Aging.

    Room: Maxwell Theatre (90 spaces)

    2pm - 4pm: Hands-on workshop using the harmonised TILDA dataset to do cross-country comparisons.

    Room: Áras an Phiarsaigh PC Lab 0.12 (20 spaces)

    Spaces are limited on both sessions. To confirm your place, please contact Gearóid O’Donnell:
    Tel: +353 1 896 2952

    For more information:

    Using publicly archived TILDA datasets Flyer

    Harmonized TILDA Brochure

    May 2016

    Professor Rose Anne Kenny presents on "How a longitudinal study can change the research landscape" at the Biomedical and Life Sciences Innovation Showcase.

    Tuesday, May 17th 2016: The showcase was co-hosted by Trinity College Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to promote the next wave of Biomedical and Life Sciences research being undertaken within both institutions and profile examples of and opportunities for Knowledge Transfer and Industry collaboration.

    Professor Rose Anne Kenny's talk:


    TILDA 2016 Scientific Advisory Board Meeting

    Scientific Advisory Board Meeting 2016

    Wednesday, May 13th 2016: The TILDA research team and affiliated researchers presented to members of the TILDA Scientific Advisory Board and other guests during the one-day event held at Trinity College Dublin. Presentations included the Global Brain Health Institute; Technological Assessments in Longitudinal Studies; Chrono-Biological Markers of Ageing; Knowledge Exchange Seminars on Hypertension; The Relationship Between Kidney Disease and Ageing; Sexual Activity and Relationship Quality in Older Age; and Housing and Older Adults in Ireland.

    Pictured above (from back, left to right): Prof. James Nazroo, Prof. Lisa Berkman, Prof. Aartjan Beekman, Prof. Charles Normand, Prof. Jim Smith, Prof. Robert Wright, Prof. Yaohui Zhao, Prof. Brendan Wheelan, Prof. Rose Anne Kenny, Prof. John Henretta, Prof. David Weir, Prof. Robert Clarke, Dr Christine McGarrigle, Prof. Stacy Tessler Lindau, Prof. Finbarr Martin, Prof. Alan Barrett, Prof. Carol Brayne, and Prof. Ian Young.

    Lecture by Professor James P. Smith "Irish immigrants and their progeny around the world"

    Thursday, 12th May 2016: We were delighted to have Professor James Smith join us in celebrating 10 years of TILDA.

    Lecture on Irish Immigrants to the US Marks 10 Years of TILDA

    Professor James Smith giving a talk in Science Gallery Dublin

    Hollywood movies often portrayed the Irish as a poor and uneducated race of people. Yet like so many other Hollywood storylines, this image is just a myth. In fact Irish migrants to the US during the first half of the 20th century were on average as well educated as other European immigrants to the US, according to Professor James Smith, who delivered the lecture ‘Irish Immigrants and their Progeny around the World’ in Trinity College Dublin to mark the 10th anniversary of TILDA (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing).

    In addition to comparing whether Irish migrants to the US were more or less educated than the Irish who stayed at home, Professor Smith, the son of an Irish mother who emigrated to the US, examined how the children and grandchildren of Irish migrants to the US did in terms of their education. Did they receive more education in the US than they would have received if the original migrants had stayed at home in Ireland? The answer is no.

    Professor Smith, Distinguished Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic Studies at US-based policy-research institute RAND, visited Trinity to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of TILDA. He has served from the start of TILDA as chair of the International Scientific Advisory Board and has played a pivotal role in helping TILDA be a success.

    Professor Paul Browne, Head of School of Medicine, welcoming Professor James Smith said: "We are grateful to Professor Smith for being incredibly generous with his time and expertise, and in particular for his mentorship of younger researchers at TILDA and being an inspiration.
    Full press release available here

    January 2016

    You’re Only As Old As You Feel!

    Our attitudes to ageing can have a direct effect on our health

    Dublin Wednesday January 27, 2016: Negative attitudes to ageing affect both physical and cognitive health in later years, new research reveals. The study from TILDA, at Trinity College Dublin, further reveals that participants with positive attitudes towards ageing had improved cognitive ability.

    The research, led by Dr Deirdre Robertson, formerly of TILDA, now based at Columbia University, investigated whether long-term exposure to negative attitudes towards ageing affects long-term changes in physical health as well.

    Key findings:

    • Older adults with negative attitudes towards ageing had slower walking speed and worse cognitive abilities two years later, compared to older adults with more positive attitudes towards ageing.

    • This was true even after participants’ medications, mood, their life circumstances and other health changes that had occurred over the same two-year period were accounted for.

    • Furthermore, negative attitudes towards ageing seemed to affect how different health conditions interacted. Frail older adults are at risk of multiple health problems including worse cognition. In the TILDA sample frail participants with negative attitudes towards ageing had worse cognition compared to participants who were not frail. However frail participants with positive attitudes towards ageing had the same level of cognitive ability as their non-frail peers.

    Speaking about the findings, Dr Robertson, commented: “The way we think about, talk about and write about ageing may have direct effects on health. Everyone will grow older and if negative attitudes towards ageing are carried throughout life they can have a detrimental, measurable effect on mental, physical and cognitive health.”

    Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, added: “Researchers and policy makers can work together to develop and implement societal-wide interventions to target attitudes and perhaps, ultimately, find novel ways of maintaining health in later life.”

    Data from TILDA provides a unique opportunity to study attitudes towards ageing as it tracks health changes over time in a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older adults. These latest findings have important implications for media, policymakers, practitioners and society more generally. Societal attitudes towards ageing are predominantly negative. Everyone will grow older and if these attitudes persist they will continue to diminish quality of life.

    The full research brief, summarising the three published papers is available here

    For media queries:

    Helen Hanley,, +353 1 896 355, +353 87 855 4540

    The Trinity EngAGE Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – entitled Strategies for Successful Ageing – is now open for registration. This free five-week course begins on February 8th and presents world-leading research in ageing as well as offering strategies to support health and well-being. Lead educator is Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Director of Mercer's Institute for Successful Ageing and Founder of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).  She is joined by Trinity EngAGE Principal Investigators including: Professors Davis Coakley, Brian Lawlor, Ian Robertson, Virpi Timonen, Fiona Newell, Sabina Brennan, Richard Layte and Dr David Thomas.


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