The cost of living with a food allergy in Ireland
New study reveals the average cost burden of living with a food allergy is €1,600 a year
Costs incurred by parents of coeliac children are more than twice those of coeliac adults
First ever all-island estimate of food hypersensitivity costs for adults and children
June 2022: New safefood funded research that looked at the cost of living with a food allergy or coeliac disease in Ireland has estimated that the average cost burden for a child with food allergy is €1,439 every year, rising to €1,602 for an adult. The research released today looks for the first time ever at the cost of living with a food hypersensitivity (food allergy, food intolerance and coeliac disease) on the island of Ireland.
These costs were primarily medical costs, costs associated with food, and the cost of missed days from work, school or college. The research led by the Technological University Dublin and Queens University Belfast also found that 71% of the adult costs (€1,141) were borne by the individual themselves with the remaining 29% being shared with the health services (€461). The opposite applied to parents of food allergic children, where 35% (€499) of the costs were out-of-pocket costs and 65% (€940) being shared with the health service.
“For the first time in Ireland, we now have reliable and locally relevant figures for the true cost of living with a food allergy, food intolerance or coeliac disease. ... What is clear from the research is that living with these conditions is a financial burden for individuals and their families.”
Introducing the research, Dr Gary A. Kearney, Interim Chief Executive, safefood said “For the first time in Ireland, we now have reliable and locally relevant figures for the true cost of living with a food allergy, food intolerance or coeliac disease. Collectively, these conditions affect at least one in ten of the population and symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening. What is clear from the research is that living with these conditions is a financial burden for individuals and their families.”
For those with coeliac disease, the associated extra costs were €438 a year for an adult and more than double that (€1,033) for a child. These costs were primarily due to medical costs but also health insurance and missed days from work, school or college. Approximately 37% (adult) and 25% (child) of these costs were related to food. For adults, 66% of the costs (€290) were incurred by the individual with 34% (€148) shared with the health service. For parents of coeliac children, 59% (€607) were out-of-pocket costs with 41% (€426) shared with the health service.
Dr James McIntosh from safefood continued “This research highlights for the first time both the financial and social costs of living with a food hypersensitivity today. Healthcare-related expenses were found to be the main driver of costs, although total food costs and the loss of time/days were also found to be significant for many of the groups we examined. As well as raising awareness about the issue, the benefit of the research is that it can help inform decisions when developing future supports and help. We aim to share the research with policy makers and the relevant support organisations who assist those living with a food allergy, food intolerance or coeliac disease.”
The people we surveyed reported a lower health status or quality of life. They had significantly higher levels of pain and discomfort, while anxiety and depression were common among adults and adolescents.”
Lead researcher Dr Ciara Walsh, School of Food Science and Environmental Health, Technological University Dublin added, “The research also looked at the non-monetary or ‘intangible’ costs involved to determine how quality of life can be affected by a food hypersensitivity. The people we surveyed reported a lower health status or quality of life. They had significantly higher levels of pain and discomfort, while anxiety and depression were common among adults and adolescents.”
“Understandably, the food environment in general continues to present challenges for those with food hypersensitivity and their families, and those with food allergy and coeliac disease highlighted the importance of increasing public and industry awareness of food hypersensitivity”, continued Dr Walsh.
Download the report “The Socio-Economic cost of food hypersensitivity on the island of Ireland”
Download graphics illustrating the costs identified by the research.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Mob +353 (0)87 297 2046
Dermot Moriarty/Maeve Wrixon, safefood
Tel: +353 (0)86 381 1034 (Dermot) / +353 (0)87 334 1586 (Maeve)
The research was commissioned by safefood and carried out by the Technological University Dublin and Queens University Belfast. More than 2,300 surveys were completed online between November 2019 and October 2012 by adults or parents of children with a medically diagnosed food allergy, medically diagnosed coeliac disease or a suspected food intolerance/food allergy. A total of 1,000 surveys were completed in Ireland and 1,300 in Northern Ireland.