In this section, we provide a breakdown of the most up-to-date, available, statistics about chest, heart and stroke conditions.
Almost 4 in 10 of all adult deaths are caused by chest, heart or stroke conditions (1).
There were 15,922 recorded deaths in 2018 (the most up-to-date annual stats we have).
The top three causes were cancer, circulatory diseases, and respiratory diseases. Together these account for 64.5% of all deaths.
Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung were the main cause of death by cancer (n=1037, 6.5% of all deaths)
Deaths due to chest, heart, and stroke conditions, when combined, are the #1 cause of death .
In 2018, 5,828 deaths were due to these conditions – this is about 16 deaths per day (1).
335,171 people in Northern Ireland are living with chest, heart, and stroke conditions. This is about 17% of the population (2). This is an increase of 1.9% on the previous year.
Respiratory diseases affect parts of the body to do with breathing, like the lungs and airways. These include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, and pneumonia, amongst others.
Over 165,000 people - or just under 8.5% of the population - are on registers for respiratory conditions. Respiratory illnesses accounted for 14% of all deaths recorded last year.
find out more about respiratory conditions on our "chest conditions" information page
Deaths due to respiratory conditions
6 per day
2,201 people. 14% of all recorded deaths. (Excludes lung cancers)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. It includes emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways).
42,235 people are living with COPD (2% of the population), (2)
Asthma is a long-term condition that affects your airways – the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. It usually causes symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults. In about 5% of the population, the symptoms can be severe.
122,861 people are living with asthma (6% of the population), (2)
Since 2008, deaths due to respiratory conditions have increased by 5% (1)
2008: 2,096 deaths
2018: 2,201 deaths
This includes numbers for influenza. Ignoring influenza, respiratory deaths have increased by almost 7%.
There were 47 deaths due to asthma last year (2)
Since 2008, deaths due to asthma have increased by 56.7%, and by almost a quarter on the previous year (3):
2008: 30 deaths
2018: 47 deaths
There were 988 deaths due to COPD. last year (2). This is about 3 per day (6% of all deaths).
Since 2008, deaths due to asthma have increased by 30% (3):
2008: 760 deaths
2018: 988 deaths
There were 57,769 admissions / presentations admissions due to respiratory diseases. This is about 158 per day, (6).
There were 50,003 emergency admissions due to respiratory diseases - about 137 per day, (6).
20,479 people presented with COPD and related conditions. This is about 56 per day, (6).
The circulatory system is your heart and blood vessels. Circulatory diseases affect this system. It covers a lot of different conditions, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, heart failure, and coronary heart disease, and these are usually called Cardiovascular Diseases (or CVD for short).*
Over 170,000 people - or 8.5% of the population - are on registers for circulatory conditions, including stroke.
Over a quarter of a million people - 273,895, or 14% of the population - are on the register for hypertension (also called high blood pressure)
Deaths due to circulatory conditions
10 per day
3,627 people. 22.8% of all recorded deaths.
Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure (HBP). It is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is raised. Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure
273,895 are on the hypertension register. This is about 14% of the population, and increase of 2% on previous year, (2)
Coronory Heart Disease (CHD)
CHD is the term that describes what happens when your heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.
74,154 people are living with CHD. This is 3.7% of the population, and a slight increase (0.4%) on previous year, (2)
Heart failure refers to the inability of the heart to effectively pump blood around the body, due to weakening or stiffening of the heart muscle.
18,323 people are living with heart failure, about 1% of the population. This is an increase of just over 5% on the previous year, (2)
Stroke, TIA, and Atrial Fibrillation are circulatory conditions too - data are in a separate section below.
Since 2008, deaths due to circulatory conditions have decreased by 24% (1)
2008: 4,752 deaths
2018: 3,627 deaths
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
Four in ten (42%) of all circulatory deaths were CHD.
There were 1522 deaths due to CHD last year (2) . This is about 4 deaths per day.
CHD is a leading cause of death, and biggest single cause of premature deaths (of people younger than 75), across Northern Ireland. But we are making progress reducing the numbers of needless deaths. Since 2008, deaths due to CHD have decreased by 37% (1), and by 68% in the in 30 years, (3) (4).
2008: 2,410 deaths
2018: 1,522 deaths (63% male)
There were 46,207 admissions / presentations admissions due to circulatory diseases. This is about 127 per day, (6)
There were 25,631 emergency admissions due to circulatory diseases - about 70 per day, (6)
6191 people presented with heart attack, (2% increase on previous year). This is about 17 per day, (6)
AF, stroke and TIA
Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
AF is a type of irregular heartbeat. If you have AF, your heart will not have a regular beat and maybe abnormally fast. The heart may not empty its chambers of blood at each beat, so a clot could form in the blood left behind, which can then travel to the brain and cause a stroke. AF can make your risk of a stroke five times higher.
People with AF are likely to have a much more severe stroke with (8):
Stroke and TIA
A stroke is sometimes called a brain attack. It is a serious life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. There are 3 different types of
- Ischaemic stroke (due to a clot);
- haemmorhagic stroke (due to a bleed); and
- Transient Ischaemic Attack
A “TIA” (or transient ischaemic attack) is sometimes called a 'mini-stroke', because the symptoms similar to those of a stroke but last a short time and occur because of a temporary lack of blood to part of the brain. A TIA is very serious. It is a sign that there is a problem and that you are at serious risk of a further stroke.
39,364 people are on the AF register - 2% of the population - and we think there could be another 10,000 people undiagnosed, (2) (8).
About a quarter of strokes are thought to occur because of AF. When diagnosed with AF, a person is five times more likely to have a stroke, and as we get older, the risk of developing AF increases. (8)
Between 30% and 40% of people will not know that they have AF until they have a stroke. (8)
Stroke and TIA
38,234 people are on the stroke register (which includes TIA) - 2% of the population - almost 3% more than the previous year, (2).
In 2018 (1):
1022 people died following a stroke, which equates to almost 3 people each day.
Since 2008, deaths due to stroke have decreased by 30%.
4,025 people were presented to hospital in Northern Ireland with a primary diagnosis of stroke, up 2% on previous year. This is about 11 people per day, (6).
Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year, and robs 10 –15 years of healthy life, (1) (5) (9)
In 2018/19 (5):
- Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of adults smoked cigarettes
- 20% of males smoked, compared to 18% of females
- Although there was no significant change in the numbers of smokers from previous year, smoking has fallen from 24% in 2010/11.
- Also, the numbers of male smokers dropped from 25% in 2011 to 20%. The number of female smokers dropped from 23% in 2011 to 18%.
- For the first time, over half of respondents (51%) reported that they had never smoked
In 2018/19 (5):
- 7% of adults were using e-cigarettes
- One in six smokers (16%) and one in five ex-smokers (19%) currently use e-cigarettes.
- over two-fifths of those who had used e-cigarettes (45%) said that they had helped them to quit smoking tobacco products completely.
e-cigs and young people
With your help, we recently funded research examining the reasons why young people start to use e-cigarettes. Overall, the researchers found that e-cig use in Northern Ireland appears to be higher than in the rest of the UK.
- 1 in 5 young people (23%) had ever used an e-cigarette.
- About 4% currently used e-cigs.
- Most young people who reported using an e-cig said they began using it between the ages of 12-14 years.
- The team found that e-cigs were more popular than traditional tobacco cigarettes among this age group
In 2018/19 (5):
- 8 in 10 adults aged 18 and over drink alcohol (79%)
- Male and female drinking patterns differ significantly. 8 in 10 males (83%) were drinkers, with about 1 in 10 (9%) reporting that they thought they drank quite a lot or heavily. Three quarters of females were drinkers and 2% thought they drank heavily.
- 1 in 6 males (16%) drank on 3 or more days per week, compared to 1 in 10 females
- There were 284 recorded alcohol deaths in 2018 - 2% of all deaths, (1). 69% were males (196), and the rest were female (88) (10)
In 2018/19 (5):
- Six in ten (62%) adults were either overweight (37%) or obese (25%).
- Females (42%) were more likely to be normal weight than males (31%)
- Males (42%) were more likely to be overweight than females (32%)
- Around a quarter (27%) of children aged 2-15 were either overweight (19%) or obese (8%)
- One in ten 2-10 year olds were obese (9%), compared to 6% of 11-15 year olds.
- Almost three in ten boys aged 2-15 (27%) were either obese (17%) or overweight (10%). A similar proportion (28%) of girls were either obese (21%) or overweight (7%)
In 2017/18 (11):
- 40% of males and 47% of females had changed their eating habits in the past 3 years to lose weight
- For those who tried to control their weight or eat more healthily, lack of willpower was the main obstacle encountered
In 2018/19 (5):
- The proportion of people aged 16+ eating 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day rose to a high of 46%. But this means that 54% were eating less than the recommended 5 a day (six in ten males, 57% compared to half of females, 51%)
- Those living in the most deprived areas were less likely to eat 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables (39%) than those in all other areas (46-50%)
- Over four-fifths of respondents (83%) knew that the Department of Health advises people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- The Health Survey NI 2016/17 (3) was the last Health Survey to ask about physical exercise among adults. It reported that 55% of adults met the recommendations of at least 150 minutes of physical exercise per week. Men (61%) were more likely than women (51%) to meet recommendations
- About 4 in 10 adults reported having over four hours of sedentary time per day on weekdays (44%) and just over half had over four hours of sedentary time per day on weekends (54%)
Children and young people
- The 2016 Ireland North and South Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth showed that the numbers of children and youth meeting physical activity recommendations were lower in the Republic of Ireland, but that Northern Ireland children had the lowest physical activity of UK countries, (7, 12).
- The report card (12) showed that about 4 in 10 aged 5-18 years old were getting the recommended amount of physical activity. A quarter of 9-11 year olds, and 14% of 11-16 year olds, were meeting recommended guidelines.
- The Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study 2018 (13) reported that just 13% of children - 20% of primary school pupils and 11% post-primary - met the physical activity guidelines, with girls less likely to meet the targets when compared to boys. On average, primary and post-primary school pupils spent 5.0 and 6.9 hours a day in sedentary ( i.e. sitting / not moving much) leisure time.
1) Deaths registered in 2018. Registrar General Annual Report 2018 Cause of Death. Table 6.1 Deaths by sex and cause, 2008 to 2018; https://www.nisra.gov.uk/sites...
2) prevalence data 2018/19. NISRA Disease Prevalence (Quality Outcomes Framework, administrative geographies) https://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.u...
3) Health Survey Northern Ireland, 2017/18 https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/health-survey-northern-ireland-first-results-201718; https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/p...
4) Central Survey Unit, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). (2016)Young Persons Behaviour and Attitudes Survey https://www.nisra.gov.uk/stati...
6) Hospital Actvity Statistics 2018/19. https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/p...
7) Harrington DM, Belton S, Coppinger T, et al. Ireland’s 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity in Children and Youth. 2014. [Online]. Available from: www.dcu.ie/sites/default/files...
8) Focus on Atrial Fibrillation in Northern Ireland. An independent AF Inquiry into the identification and management of AF to reduce stroke risk - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. (NICHS 2020)
The most up to date annual statistics were used where available. Some date back to 2018, others cover the period 2018-19. Data appearing within research reports or studies are correct at the time of publishing.
Where we state "335171 people are living with Chest Heart and Stroke conditions", this refers to people on registers for conditions, and does not include people on hypertension register. As people can appear on multiple registers, this cannot be taken to be a head count.