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May 22, 2020 Friday 01:26:56 PM IST

Study compares the health of Irish children to those across Europe and Canada

Parent Interventions

A new report, Spotlight on Adolescent Health and Well-being, published today by WHO Regional Office for Europe, compiles extensive data on the physical health, social relationships and mental well-being of 227 441 schoolchildren aged 11, 13 and 15, from 45 countries. Irish children rank low on substance use such as smoking and drinking alcohol and high on physical activity. Ireland also ranks high for problematic social media use. The report presents the comparative international findings of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, which is co-ordinated by the WHO and undertaken every four years. The Irish arm of this study is led by Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn in the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway. In this new report Irish 11, 13 and 15 year olds are compared to those in 44 other countries across Europe and North America. 

Key comparative findings show that:

Irish children rank highly for eating breakfast and low for sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption at all ages. There have been significant reductions in sweets and soft drink consumption since 2014

Ireland ranks low at all ages for reported tobacco and alcohol use

Ireland ranks high relative to other countries in reported vigorous physical activity

Life satisfaction has significantly reduced since 2014, and Ireland ranks low for life satisfaction among 15-year olds

Ireland ranks highly for problematic social media use at all ages, and among 13 and 15 year olds, Ireland ranks highly for reports of having been cyberbullied.

Key Irish findings:

Health-promoting behaviours:

Daily breakfast consumption: Irish children ranked within the top 5 countries for the proportion of children reporting daily breakfast consumption

Meeting physical activity recommendations of at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily: When compared to other countries, Ireland ranks in the top 10 for the proportion of 11 and 13 year-old boys and girls meeting physical activity recommendations. At all ages, a larger proportion of boys report meeting the recommendations than girls.

Risk-taking behaviour:

Initiation of risk behaviours: In Ireland, the proportion of 11 and 13 year-old children reporting initiation of cigarette smoking and alcohol use is low relative to other countries

Drinking behaviours and tobacco use are continuing to improve in Ireland and when compared to other countries

Risky sexual behaviour: Girls in Ireland rank among the top 10 countries for not using the contraceptive pill or condom at last intercourse.

Mental Health and Well-being:

Life satisfaction: Irish 15-year olds ranked within the bottom 2 countries for life satisfaction

Life satisfaction has significantly reduced in all age groups of Irish children since 2014

Ireland ranks low on reports of symptoms (stomachache, backache, nervous and dizziness at age 11

Girls at age 13 and 15 are more likely than boys to report multiple symptoms

High family affluence is related to better self-rated health, higher life satisfaction and lower rate of multiple symptoms.

Social interaction with family and peers:

Perceived family support: Ireland ranked within the bottom ten countries for the proportion of 11 and 13 year-old children reporting high family support Perceived family and peer support: have improved among 13 year-old girls since 2014.

Problematic social media use: Across all ages, Ireland ranked within the top 10 countries for the proportion of children categorised with problematic social media use

Bullied others at school: Ireland (13 and 15 year-olds) ranked within the bottom 10 countries for the proportion of children who report bullying others at school

Cyberbullying: Compared to other countries, Ireland ranks among the top 10 countries for prevalence of cyberbullying among older children (13 and 15 year-olds).

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