What do Irish people spend their money on? ~ World Food Day, October 16th 2011
My husband subscribes to Time Magazine (which I don’t often get the time to read!) but this week I did and an article by Jeffrey Sachs caught my eye. While he was writing about the inequality which exists within the American economy today, it was a chart which outlined how Americans spend their disposable income that piqued my interest. In 1970, 16% of American household disposable income was spent on food: in 2010, that had reduced to 7%. The chart also included other spends, the most notable of which was healthcare expenses. In 1970, this sector represented 7% of the American disposable spend: in 2010, Americans were spending 16% of their take home income on medical expenses. Interesting that the figures have switched places in 40 years. According to the OECD, in 1978, 15% of the adult population of the USA was classified as obese. By 2006, this had increased to over 34%. One other thing to consider, the annual spend in the USA on obesity related diseases is approximately the size of the Irish National Debt.
Once it came to my attention that today is World Food Day and Blog Action Day with a focus on Food, I decided to examine the Irish statistics on disposable income expenditure and obesity levels here. So I spent the afternoon doing a little datamining using the wonderful resources on the website of the Central Statistics Office (well it is MathsWeek and I’m a techie geek at heart). Here’s what I found out.
The first thing to tell you is that the spend on Food in Ireland in this chart includes expenditure on alcohol and tobacco. So, in 1970, 45% of household disposable income was consumed by food while in 2010, this had reduced to 19%. Guess what – our percentage spend on alcohol and tobacco products increased in the same timespan from 38% to 52% – yep more than half of our ‘food’ spend today is on cigarettes and alcohol! The professional services section includes spend on medicines and medical services which you can see has more than doubled from 5% in 1970 to 11% in 2010. Consider that this is the household spend on this item and does not also include the public spend on provision of medical services for Irish households financed through taxation.
In a time when we are spending less money on food, we are becoming more obese as a nation. From a rate of 11% obesity in 1990, the latest survey shows that 24% of the Irish adult population is now obese. As a consequence, spending on healthcare services, through both public and private provision, for obesity-related diseases increases. Is it possible that if you don’t spend money on quality food, there’s a good chance you’ll spend it on healthcare instead? Would you prefer to give your money to a quality food producer or retailer today or a health care professional tomorrow? Remember, cheap does not equal value. Food for thought on World Food Day 2011.