Research by the ESRI claims that the main burden of the economic crisis is being borne by the younger half of the country’s population.

It says unemployment and high levels of negative equity are more prevalent among those aged under 45, and this had led to a very sharp drop in spending by this age group.

According to the ESRI research, younger people are more likely to have lost their jobs and are more likely to have bought property at the top of the boom.

However, while household incomes for the under 45s have gone down by 8%, their spending on consumption – including housing - has gone down by 20%.

By contrast spending by the older age group did not decline.

The ESRI used data from the national household survey to look at the effects of the economic crisis on younger and older households.

Around half of Ireland’s 1.6 million households are headed by someone aged under 45, creating a broadly even split between the households falling into younger and older categories.