State among highest spenders on health per person in OECD

Ireland spends €4,706 per head of population on healthcare, according to study

Ireland spends €4,706 per head of population on healthcare, one-third more than the average across 35 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The State’s spend last year was the seventh highest per person in the OECD.

The average spend on health of €3,515 per person across the OECD countries, some 70 per cent more than they spent on education for citizens.

The highest average spending on health was in the US which was expected to rise to €8,643 ($10,000) per head of population, ahead of Switzerland (€6,917), Luxembourg (€6,088) and Norway (€5,485). The study found that Mexico, Turkey and Colombia each spent around €860 per person on health last year.


The OECD’s preliminary estimates indicate health spending rose by about 2.5 per cent last year. It said that in nearly all countries the vast majority of health services are obtained either via government schemes or some form of compulsory health insurance.

Lowest spenders

In terms of health spending as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), Ireland, in 27th place, was ranked amongst the lowest spenders last year, with 7.1 per cent of GDP spent on health.

At 17.2 per cent of GDP, health spending was again highest in the US, and significantly more than Switzerland (12.3 per cent) and France (11.5 per cent), the second and third highest spenders.

At the other end of the scale, Turkey (4.2 per cent) and Mexico (5.4 per cent) each spent less than 6 per cent of their GDP on health.

Michael Mueller, OECD health policy analyst, said Ireland and Luxembourg show “significant differences” when comparing per capita spending versus as a share of GDP.

“The reason is in Ireland and Luxembourg, a significant amount of GDP is not available for national consumption,” he said.

“The economic output of Ireland is not necessarily available for residents because some of it is exported, because of the international companies who have their headquarters in Ireland, such as Facebook and Google.

“It is the same case in Luxemburg where there is a lot of the international banks.”

The OECD said many European countries affected by the recent economic downturn aimed to reduce health spending in public budgets. It said per capita spending in Portugal, Italy and Spain is now back to pre-crisis levels, while in Greece it remains nearly 30 per cent below 2009 levels.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times