Queen’s University Belfast: Research shows cost of living with a food allergy in NI

The study surveyed 1,300 residents here and included parents of children living with these conditions. It estimated that the average cost for a child with a food allergy is £1,414 every year, and £1,259 for an adult.

For those with coeliac disease, the extra costs were £1,365 a year for an adult, rising to £1,690 for a parent of a coeliac child.

Safefood interim chief, Dr Gary A Kearney, said it is the first time “reliable and locally relevant figures for the true cost of living” with food hypersensitivity have been collected in Northern Ireland.

All costs are primarily related to medical reasons, including hospital visits and stays, health insurance charges, as well as the cost of missed days from work, school, or college, and the price of travel associated with medical appointments. Food costs were also considered.

The research led by teams at Queen’s and Technological University Dublin also found that 43% of the adult costs (£542) were borne by the individual themselves, with the remaining 57% (£717) being shared with the health service.

The out-of-pocket costs incurred by parents of food allergic children were slightly lower at 39% (£550), with 61% (£864) shared with the health service.

Dr Kearney added that “collectively, these conditions affect at least one in 10 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.”

Dr Charlene McShane from Queen’s said that the research also looked at the non-monetary or “intangible” costs to determine how quality of life can be affected by a food hypersensitivity.

She added: “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.”