Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now

What kills us, where we donate, and what the government funds

You might find the results surprising…

Image: Money via Shutterstock

Updated: 2.24 pm

AS THE ICE bucket challenge swept the globe over the summer, there were some serious voices that spoke against it.

William McAskill, who runs the Giving What We Can organisation, argued that the astronomical donations given to Motor Neurone Disease (MND) charities were “cannibalising” money that would otherwise go to other worthy causes.

Others spoke out against it, claiming that MND isn’t common enough to warrant the attention (and funding) it’s received.

With all of this in mind, and with a tip of the hat to this piece by Vox, decided to see how death rates, government funding, and charity donations interact in Ireland.

We used Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures for deaths in 2012, the most recent year available, and annual financial reports from the main charities dedicated to specific diseases.

COPD Support Ireland, the only group specifically dedicated to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, was only set up in October 2013, is not yet receiving government funding, and does not yet have figures for donations from the public.

What we found

chartdiseasescharities Source:

Breaking it down…

deaths2012 Source: CSO

govtfunding Source: Annual reports

donations Source: Annual reports

Worth noting…

There are many deserving charities and causes active in Ireland, and we give to them in our droves.

Recent studies have shown we are the most charitable people in Europe, as well as the most generous in volunteering our time to help others.

Many medical charities are focused on diseases, conditions and disabilities that are not fatal, but no less worthy of the public’s time and money, or government funding.

So, Irish Autism Action and DeafHear, to name just two groups, are not relevant to these figures.

We’re also not suggesting that some charities are more or less worthy than others, because the diseases they focus on kill fewer of us.

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

8366781677_e9b628c604_z Source: Howard Lake via Flickr

In fact, a brief look at some of the numbers suggests that when it comes to charitable donations, we are motivated as much by improving quality of life as we are by preventing deaths.

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland, for example, received €3.39 million in donations in 2012, a year when 64 people died from the disease, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

But some 8,000 people in Ireland are living with MS, and badly need help dealing with what is a complex, very difficult and progressive neurological condition.

Of course the number of deaths officially attributed to a certain disease does not give a full and accurate picture of the challenges faced by its sufferers.

It also doesn’t account for multimorbidities – the complex combination of more than one disease in the same patient.

It should also be noted that stroke, which killed 1,465 people in 2012, is included by the CSO in the same category as heart disease and heart attack, which is reflected in these charts.

While there is no organisation in Ireland specifically dedicated to stroke, the Irish Heart Foundation and Croí both cater to it.

Explore the numbers

Causes of death:

Annual reports: Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Cancer Society, Alzheimer Society of Ireland, COPD Ireland (founded Oct 2013), Parkinson’s Association of Ireland, Alcohol Action Ireland, MS Society of Ireland, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland

Read: Ice Bucket Challenge raises over €1.4m in donations>

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Where does the money go?>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

Read next: