Medical costs here are rising at six times the rate of general inflation, the latest Mercer Marsh Benefits survey has found.

The study comes as all the main health insurers announce premium increases.

According to the report, medical costs globally increased by 9.7% in 2018, about three times the rate of inflation.

A similar increase is expected for this year with an even bigger increase next year.

Here, underlying medical costs rose by 4.2% last year - six times the rate of inflation of 0.7%.

Costs are expected to increase by 4.5% this year, compared to a forecast inflation rate of 1.2%.

Globally, the top three health risk factors influencing medical cost remain cardiovascular, dietary and emotional/mental risk.

Costs are also being driven by increasing drug prices and the availability of new diagnostic procedures.

"The global trend is that medical costs are rising at a much more rapid rate than general inflation, and Ireland is no exception," Aisling Kelly, Consultant, Mercer Marsh Benefits said. 

"Increasing costs are feeding through into higher health insurance premiums. One approach employers in Ireland are taking to contain costs is to place increased focus on mental wellbeing initiatives and preventative wellness programmes.

"By embedding wellness in the organisational culture, with strong support at all levels, companies can improve their employees' health, reduce absenteeism through sickness, and help to address the issue of rising premiums," Ms Kelly added.

After several years of price cuts, all the main health insurers announced price increases in recent months.

VHI announced an average rise in premiums of 6% from the start of this month.

Laya Healthcare said it was raising prices on 82 plans from last month and Irish Life increased prices by an average of over 3% in recent months.