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Wealth inequality is a matter of life and death, CSO figures reveal

By Cian Molloy - 06 July, 2019

Wealth inequality in Ireland is directly linked to mortality rate differences, CSO figures reveal this week.

The standardised death rate for unskilled workers is 61 per cent greater than the standardised death rate for professional workers.

The standardised death rate is a synthetic measure that allows for comparison of death rates. Using the measure, the CSO found standardised death rate of professional workers is calculated at 494 per 100,000 persons while the standardised death rate for unskilled workers is much higher, at 796 per 100,000.

In the mainstream media, coverage of these grim statistics focused much on the fact that Protestant adherents have a lower mortality rate than Roman Catholics.

Some commentators speculated that this sectarian difference might be the result of a so-called “famine gene”, an inheritable DNA mutation that occurs in times of hunger and stress. It is theorised that Catholic descendants of famine survivors are more likely to eat unhealthily because of this famine gene.

The CSO statistical report found: “Protestant adherents had a lower mortality rate in 2016 than Roman Catholics – 563 per 100,000 compared with 660.”

The Catholic death rate is 17 per cent greater than the standardised death rate for Protestant adherents. This is a statistically significant difference, but one that is not as great as the enormous difference in the death rate of the rich and the poor.

A man born into the richest one-fifth of the Irish population has a life expectancy of 84.4 years, five years more than the life expectancy of a man born into the poorest fifth of the population.

Church of Ireland journalist Victoria White, writing in The Cork Examiner, said: “I feel certain that the reason Protestants still outlive Catholics in this state is because Protestants have a history of wealth while Catholics do not.”

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