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All Ireland Traveller Health Study

Our Geels-All Ireland Traveller Health Study 2010

The AITHS was the first study of Traveller health that involved all Travellers living on the island of Ireland. The study was undertaken by UCD and the Dept of Health and ran for a 3 year period; the results were published in 2010

This study was unique as it engaged with Travellers in the designing and layout of the research to ensure that Traveller peer researcher could carry out the research in their own community

In Mayo 17 Traveller women trained as peer researchers and carried out the research with MTSG coordinating the project for the county; the response rate nationally was 80% with 40,129 members of the Traveller community being enumerated for the whole of Ireland

The high response rate is believed to be due to the greater trust and understanding of the peer researchers carrying out the study in their own community.

Population Pyramid

Key facts from the AITHS

Life expectancy

Mortality rates: Traveller men live 15 years less than the majority population; Traveller women 11 years less. Infant mortality rates being 3.5 times higher than the general population

Main causes of death:

  • Heart disease & stroke-25%
  • Cancer-19%
  • Lung disease- 13%

Travellers also have increased rates of high cholesterol, blood pressure & smoking.


The data reported the importance of education or lack of education on wide ranging social, cultural, psychological and economic factors.


73% of Travellers most frequently lived in a house with a wide range of accommodation experiences being recorded with many negative effects such as isolation, very poor conditions & depression.


4.8% of Travellers in Ireland were either employed or unemployed; discriminatory practices and social exclusion leading to low self esteem and poor performance in education & training were named by Travellers as factors as contributing to the low levels of employment.  Many young Travellers indicated that there was very little point in staying on in school because there was no chance of gaining paid employment afterwards because of discrimination. The only way to get on and get jobs was to integrate, become like them and deny your identity.


40% of Travellers have experienced discrimination in accessing health services, compared to 17% of Black Americans & 14% Latino Americans (Krieger et al 2005)

“We have to integrate but not assimilate. Now that’s the difference there is, that yes we want to integrate, but not assimilate. Travellers are always going to be Travellers even if we experience discrimination in our daily lives for that choice” (SSI Traveller).

Social Capital

The importance of religion/faith (83%), Traveller identity (74%), culture (73%), and membership of the Traveller community (71%), followed by nomadism (54%) were key findings.

Mental health

62.7% of Traveller women & 59.4% Traveller men said that their mental health was not good for 1 or more days in the last 30 days.

56% of Travellers said that poor physical & mental health restricted their normal daily activities.

Suicide is 6 x the rate of the general population and accounts for 11% of all Traveller deaths.

Men’s health

Suicide rate is 7 x higher that the general population and also have 4 x the mortality rate.

Traveller men find it hard to engage with mainstream services and as a result are becoming more marginalised.

Drug abuse was perceived as a major health threat to men in the future.

Access and use of services

Barriers identified to accessing health services were waiting list, embarrassment, lack of information, and lack of trust in healthcare professionals.

Benefits of PHC projects

Health Information

  • 83% of the Travellers interviewed said they got their health information and advise from Primary Health Care Projects and Travellers organisations.
  • Women’s Health
    25% of Traveller women compared to 13% of general population had a breast screening.
  • 23% of the Travellers had Smear test compared to 12% of general population.