Survey will take snapshot of how healthy we are
The state of the nation's health will be the focus of a countrywide survey of more than 10,000 households.
The Department of Health and Healthy Ireland are launching the study to find out just how healthy - or otherwise - Irish people are.
Households have been randomly selected for the survey which will start in the coming weeks.
The Healthy Ireland questionnaire will provide a snapshot of key indicators that influence our health right across the population.
These include nutrition, alcohol consumption, smoking, level of physical activity, weight management and wellbeing.
The survey's results will enable health planners to get an idea of how policies are working, and to develop a baseline on how healthy the population is in general.
They should be available for analysis by next April or May.
"If we're going to help people to stay healthy, we need to have an idea of how healthy they are," said Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
"So this new survey will be really useful in making sure that the right policies are in place. It will also tell us what areas we need to focus on in future.
"The Healthy Ireland initiative was set up to improve the nation's physical and mental health. We haven't had a comprehensive survey since 2007, and there have been huge changes since then.
"On the one hand, more people are more aware of the importance of diet, lifestyle, health, wellbeing and mental fitness, but as a nation we now face even bigger challenges on obesity, stress, diet and many other areas. So there's a big job ahead of us.
"This new survey will give us a really up-to-date picture of the nation's health and will provide vital data. The results will give us a baseline set of data telling us how healthy or unhealthy Ireland is.
"We can then use future surveys to assess whether or not our policies are working. It's entirely voluntary, so I want to thank in advance any people who agree to take part as their participation is of enormous value."
The interviews with people in the selected households will begin soon and continue until April, said Kate O'Flaherty, the director of the Health and Wellbeing Programme in the Department of Health.
"Those households selected will receive letters inviting them to take part in the survey," she said.
"I would like to assure people that the data collected will remain confidential at all times."
The last similar survey was SLAN 2007, so there is a huge need for more up to date information, according to experts.
A higher percentage of respondents in the Republic (29pc) were current smokers compared with Northern Ireland (26pc), that survey found.
The new survey is being conducted by Ipsos MRBI for Healthy Ireland, which is a cross-Government initiative.