The two communities in Northern Ireland: Deprivation and ill health*

D. O'reilly*, M. Stevenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The aim of this study was to examine differences in socio-economic standing and ill health between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Methods: This was a descriptive epidemiological study. Deaths from 1991 to 1995 inclusive were used to calculate standardized mortality rates (SMR, under 75 years) at small level using the 1991 Census population estimates. The standardized limiting long-term illness ratios (SIR) were based on the appropriate Census question. Regression models were tested with SMR and SIR as dependent variables and a wide range of socio-economic indicators, including income support and family credit uptake, as independent predictors. Results: Northern Ireland is a very polarized society. More than 60 per cent of the population live in areas which have more than 80 per cent of one religion. Areas with a preponderance of Catholics tend to be more deprived. Unemployment rates, percentage renting, car availability, and education attainment are all worse in Catholic areas. However, there is considerable heterogeneity between areas with similar levels of religious affiliation and the overall pattern varies with the indicator chosen. SMRs rise stepwise with increasing percentage of Catholics. SIRs increase with increasing polarization of areas, but this is much more marked in those with a predominantly Catholic affiliation. Altogether 46.8 per cent of the variance in SMR and 77.9 per cent of that of SIRs could be explained by socio-economic variables alone. Denomination did not have any residual predictive value. Conclusions: Policy-makers should continue to periodically monitor for differences between the two communities including any differences in service accessibility and uptake. Efforts should be directed towards reducing the inequalities in health for all sections of the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 1998


  • deprivation
  • ill health
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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