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A breakdown of the most up-to-date, available, statistics about chest, heart and stroke conditions.

NI 37

Almost 4 in 10 of all adult deaths are caused by chest, heart or stroke conditions [1,2]

There were 15,758 recorded deaths in 2019 (the most up-to-date annual stats we have).

The top three causes were cancer, circulatory diseases, and respiratory diseases. Together these account for 64.3% of all deaths. These have been the three leading causes of death since 2012. 

Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung were the main cause of death by cancer (n=1039, 6.5% of all deaths, almost a quarter of all cancers) 

Deaths due to chest, heart and stroke conditions, when combined, are the #1 cause of death (36%).


In 2019, 5656 deaths were due to these conditions – this is about 15 deaths per day.


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 Conditions  

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.


Deaths due to Respiratory Conditions: 6 per day

2,201 people or 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), (3)

    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), (3)

    • In 2019, 1,970 recorded deaths were due to respiratory conditions about 5 per day (5.4). This was a decrease of 10.5% on the previous year [1,2]

      Since 2008, deaths due to respiratory conditions have increased by 6% (1)

      2008: 2,096 deaths

      2019: 1,970 deaths

      This includes numbers for influenza. Ignoring influenza, respiratory deaths have increased by almost 7%.


      There were 41 deaths due to asthma in 2019 (2)

      Since 2008, deaths due to asthma have increased by 36.7%, and by almost a quarter on the previous year (3):

      2008: 30 deaths

      2018: 47 deaths

      2019: 41 deaths


      There were 918 deaths due to COPD last year (2). This is about 2.5 per day (5.8% of all deaths).

      Despite a drop in deaths on the previous year (7.1%), since 2008, deaths due to asthma have increased by (20.8%)

      2008: 760 deaths

      2018: 988 deaths

      2019: 918 deaths

    • In 2019:

      There were 59,708 admissions / presentations admissions due to respiratory diseases. This is about 163 per day, (4).

      There were 52,589 emergency admissions due to respiratory diseases - about 144 per day, (4).

    Circulatory Conditions

    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. 

    Circulatory illnesses accounted for almost a quarter of all deaths recorded in 2019(23%, 3,686 people). This is about 10 per day and 1.6% more than last year.


    Deaths due to Circulatory Conditions: 10 per day

    3,686 people or 22.8% of all recorded deaths.

    • Hypertension

      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

      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) [3]

      It is estimated that up to 89,000 adults have undiagnosed and untreated hypertension in Northern Ireland [5]

      High blood pressure (HBP) is not a disease in itself. However, it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and strokes [6]. Over the years, HBP slowly damages the blood vessels by making them narrower and more rigid.

      Read more on our "high blood pressure" information page.

      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

      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.

    • Circulatory illnesses accounted for almost a quarter of all deaths recorded last year (23%, 3,686 people) [1,2]. This is about 10 per day and 2% more than last year.

      Since 2008, deaths due to circulatory conditions have decreased by 22% (22.4)

      2008: 4,752 deaths

      2019: 3,686 deaths (DOWN 22%)

      Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

      Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) occurs when your coronary arteries are narrowed by a build-up of fatty material within their walls.

      In 2019, 1,613 recorded deaths were due to CHD [1,2] This is about 4 deaths per day (4.4).

      This was more than 4 in 10 (43.7%) of all circulatory deaths

      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 the 1960s CHD death rates have fallen by around ¾. According to the Registrar General, heart disease has decreased by 64.2% since 1989 [1,2] Since 2008, deaths due to CHD have decreased by 33.1% [1,2]. However, this is a 6.0 per cent increase from last year (1,522).

      1989: 4,508 deaths

      2008: 2,410 deaths

      2019: 1,613 deaths (DOWN 64%)

    • In 2019:

      There were 46,189 admissions / presentations admissions due to circulatory diseases. This is about 126 per day, [4]

      There were 25,648 emergency admissions due to circulatory diseases - about 70 per day, [4]

      5,811 people presented with heart attack, (6% decrease on previous year). This is about 16 per day, [4] there were 848 emergency admissions for ischaemic heart disease (reduced blood supply to the heart) – about 2 per day [4]

    Atrial fibrillation 02

    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):

  • Almost double the death rate from stroke
  • Increased disability from stroke
  • Longer hospital stay
  • Increased risk of a stroke happening again
  • Read more on our AF page.

    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 stroke: 

    • Ischaemic stroke (due to a clot)
    • Haemmorhagic stroke (due to a bleed)
    • 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.

    Read more about these conditions on our "Stroke Conditions" information page.


    Deaths due to Stroke: Almost 2 per day.

    858 people.

    • AF

      39,364 people are on the AF register - 2% of the population - and we think there could be another 10,000 people undiagnosed, (3) (7).

      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. (7)

      Between 30% and 40% of people will not know that they have AF until they have a stroke. (7)

        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 2019:

        858 people died following a stroke, which equates to almost 2 people each day.

        Since 2008, deaths due to stroke have decreased by 27%.

        2009: 1,175

        2019: 858

      • In 2019:

        There were 1,345 people admitted (emergency) for stroke. This about 4 per day (3.7) [4]

        2,821 people were admitted to hospital for stroke in 2019-20, slightly more (0.4%) than last year.

        In 2019/20 [4]

        1,344 females (47.6% of total admissions) and 1,477 males (52.4%) were admitted to hospital for stroke.

        There was a 1.25% decrease in females compared to the year before, compared to 2% increase in number of males admitted the year before.

        939 were under the age of 70 (33.3% of all admissions), compared to 981 in the previous year (35%)

        75% (2118 people) had at least one other comorbidity (another disease / illness present at the same time).

        4 in 10 (37.68%) had 2 or more comorbidities.

        6 in 10 (55.8%) had hypertension before they had their stroke.

        A quarter (25.1%) had a previous stroke or TIA beforehand.

        One in five had AF (19.4%), and one in five had diabetes before they were admitted for their stroke (21.5%).

        Around 5% had Congestive Heart Failure before their stroke.

      Other Statistics

      • Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year, and robs on average 10 –15 years of healthy life, [1,9,10]

        In 2019/20: [10, 12]

        • 17% of adults smoked cigarettes. Although there was no significant change from 2018/19 (18%), smoking prevalence has fallen from 24% in 2010/11.
        • 18% of males smoked cigarettes, (down from 25%in 2010/11).
        • 16% of females smoked (down from 23%in 2010/11).
        • The median (“middle”) number of cigarettes smoked per week was 70.
        • 3 in 10 smokers (31%) rolled their own cigarettes, with males (38%) more likely to do so than females (23%).
        • Those living in the most deprived areas were more likely to smoke tobacco. 27% of those living in the most deprived areas smoked, although this was down from 40% in 2010/11, compared to 10%of those living in the least deprived areas smoke (down from 14% in 2010/11).
        • Over half of respondents (51%) reported that they had never smoked.

        Young People and Smoking [13]

        • Almost 1 in 10 (9.6%) had ever tried smoking tobacco with only 4% indicating that they currently smoked. This represents a decrease since 2000, when two-fifths (37%) reported ever having smoked and 15% were current smokers.
        • 16% of young smokers smoked every day.
        • 11% smoked at least once a week but not every day.
        • Boys (11%) were more likely to report ever having smoked than girls (8%). Young people living in the most deprived quintile were more likely to report ever having smoked (13%) than those in the least deprived quintile (7%) though the rate of current smoking was similar (5% and 3% respectively).

        Quitting Smoking [10]:

        • Three-quarters (73%) of smokers have ever tried to quit smoking.
        • 12% of smokers intend to stop within the next 3 months, however 23% said they knew they should but didn’t really want to stop and 18% said they didn’t want to stop
        • The main reasons given for quitting: Concern for personal health –67%, The price of cigarettes –64%, Setting example for children –60%.

          Smoking cessation services (NINIS data) [11] In 2018:
        • 58% successfully quit (self-report) at 4 weeks (n=8,032).

        Read more on our "Smoking" information page.

      • In 2019/20: [10]

        • 6% of adults were using e-cigarettes
        • Those living the most deprived areas (8%) were more likely to use e-cigarettes than those living the least deprived areas (5%).
        • Of those that had both smoked cigarettes and used e-cigarettes, the majority (92%) smoked cigarettes before they started using e-cigarettes,while 7% started both at the same time.
        • over two-fifths of those who had used e-cigarettes (46%) said that they had helped them to quit smoking tobacco products completely.
        • A third (36%) said they enable them to reduce the number of cigarettes they would normally smoke.
        • A fifth (17%) of e-cigarette users are planning to stop within the next 6 months
        • Two-fifths (38%) of e-cigarette users are not planning to stop using them.

        E-Cigs and Young People [13]

        • The majority of young people (95%) had heard of e-cigarettes, with a fifth having used an e cigarette at least once. Research funded by NICHS.
        • Those in the older year groups were more likely to report ever having used, with findings ranging from 4% of those in Year 8 to 38% of those in Year 12.
        • A small proportion (3%) report using e-cigarettes on a regular basis (at least once a week).

        With your help, we recently funded research examining the reasons why young people start to use e-cigarettes (as yet unpublished). 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 2019/20: [10]

        • Three quarters of adults aged 18 and over drink alcohol (77%)
        • (50%) of all drinkers report drinking at least once a week
        • Two-thirds (62%) of drinkers had drank alcohol in the last week with 8% having drank over 14 units on the day they drank the most *
        • There were 284 recorded alcohol deaths in 2018 - 2% of all deaths, (1). 69% were males (196), and the rest were female (88) (10)
        • Male and female drinking patterns differ significantly. 8 in 10 males (80%) were drinkers, with 26% of males reporting that they drank above sensible weekly limits. 7% of males reported that they thought they drank quite a lot or heavily. Of those males who drank in the last week, on the day they drank the most, 37% had consumed up to five units and 20% had consumed over 14 units
        • Three quarters of females (73%) were drinkers , with 9% of females reporting that they drank above sensible weekly limits •3% of females reported that they thought they drank quite a lot or heavily. A tenth of female drinkers (10%) drank on 3 or more days per week •Of those females who drank in the last week, on the day they drank the most, 58% had consumed up to five units and 4% had consumed over 14 units *

        Young people [13, 14]

        • Since 2000, there has been a decline in both the proportion of young people ever having drank alcohol and the proportion of those who drank that report having been drunk.
        • Half as many young people reported ever having a drink in 2019 (29%) than in 2000 (59%); boys were more likely to report having taken a drink (32%) than girls (26%) and those in Year 12 (56%) were more likely to have done so than those in Year 8 (9%).
        • In 2019, 3 in 10 young people aged 11-16 (29.2%) Of those who ever tried, reported that they ever drank alcohol. 0.3% drank daily. 4% a few times a week.
        • reported being drunk with alcohol at nay time in the last month 50.8%

        Deaths [15]

        • There were 284 recorded alcohol deaths in 2018 - 2% of all deaths, (1). 69% were males (196), and the rest were female (88) (10)

        Read more on our "Alcohol" information page.

      • In 2019/20: [10]

        • Six in ten (65%) adults were either overweight (38%) or obese (27%) (Up from 62% in 2018/19).
        • Females (38%) were more likely to be normal weight than males (28%).
        • Males (43%) were more likely to be overweight than females (33%).
        • Two-thirds (63%) of overweight males thought they were about the right weight.
        • Three-quarters (76%) of overweight males were not trying to lose weight. For obese males - Four-fifths (79%) thought they were too heavy and half were trying to lose weight.
        • Three-fifths (58%) of overweight females thought they were too heavy.
        • Half (48%) of overweight females were trying to lose weight . For obese females - Most (87%) thought they were too heavy and two-thirds were trying to lose weight.

        Obesity in Children and Young People [16]

        • Around a quarter (25%) of children aged 2-15 were either overweight (20%) or obese (6%), compared to 27% in 18/19
        • 25% of young people aged 16+ in NI were obese and 37% were overweight.
        • 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%)
        • 21% of Primary 1 aged children were overweight or obese.
        • 28% of Year 8 children were overweight or obese.

        Read more on our "Obesity" information page.

      • In 2017/18: [17]

        • 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 2019/20: [10]

        • The proportion of people aged 16+ eating 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day rose to a high of 44% (compared to 46% in 2018/19) But this means that 56% were eating less than the recommended 5 a day (six in ten males, 62% compared to half of females, 50%)
        • Those living in the most deprived areas were less likely to eat 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables (39%) than those in the least deprived areas (54%)
        • Over four-fifths of respondents (84%) knew that the Department of Health advises people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day

        Young people and Diet [18]

        In 2019:

        • Only 18% of young people ate 5 or more portions of fruit and veg a day.
        • 5.7% ate no daily portions of fruit or veg.

        Read more on our Healthy Eating information page.

      • Adults

        • The Health Survey NI 2016/17 [19] 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, [20, 21]
        • The report card [20] 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 [22] 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.

        Read more on our "Physical Inactivity" information page.

        1. RG Annual Report 2019.PDF (
        2. Registrar General Annual Report 2019 Deaths, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency,
        3. Disease Prevalence (Quality Outcomes Framework) (administrative geographies)
        4. Acute episode based activity downloadable data 2019/20 | Department of Health (,
        5.,or%20too%20low%20is%20to%20have%20a%20test. Blood pressure testing in community pharmacy - HSCB (
        6. High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension's effects on your body - Mayo Clinic
        7. 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)
        8. SSNAP - National ( King’s Fund
        10. Health Survey Northern Ireland: First results 2019/20 (
        11. (Smoking Cessation Services (administrative geographies),
        12. Other reference Cigarette Smoking Prevalence - Health Survey (administrative geographies)
        13. Young person’s behaviour & attitudes survey 2019 - Substance Use,
        1. Young Persons Behaviour - Alcohol (administrative geographies),2003,2007,2010,2013,2016,2019&sk=134&sn=Health%20and%20Social%20Care&yearfilter=
        2. Childhood BMI (administrative geographies) - Table view - Childhood BMI (administrative geographies) - Table view - NINIS: Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (
        4. 18. Young Persons Behaviour (Fruit and Vegetable Consumption) Survey,2003,2007,2010,2013,2016,2019&sk=134&sn=Health%20and%20Social%20Care&yearfilter=
        5. Health Survey Northern Ireland, 2017/18;
        6. Harrington DM, Belton S, Coppinger T, et al. Ireland’s 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity in Children and Youth. 2014. [Online]. Available from:
        7. https://www.activehealthykids....
      • The most up to date annual statistics were used where available. Data appearing within research reports or studies are correct at the time of publishing. Where we state the number of people “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.

      Download Statistics Infographics

      Respiratory Conditions

      Circulatory Conditions

      Stroke, TIA, and AF



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