A new study reveals the average cost burden of living with a food allergy is €1,600 a year

Published: 28 Jun, 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 a 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 Dr Ciara Walsh of Technological University Dublin and Queens University Belfast also found that 71% of the adult costs (€1,141) were borne by the individual, 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.

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 strong> 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 support and help. We aim to share the research with policymakers and the relevant support organisations who assist those living with a food allergy, food intolerance or coeliac disease.”

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.

Read more about it here.