College News

Health behaviour report finds lower drinking and smoking levels and higher happiness levels in children

The Minister of State for Health Promotion, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy launched the ‘Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland Trends Report 1998-2014’ (HBSC) in Dublin this week. The study was carried out by Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn and her team at the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway. 
The HBSC is a cross-sectional study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe. It runs every four years and in 2014 there were 42 participating countries and regions collecting data on the health behaviours, health outcomes and contexts of children’s lives.
In terms of risky behaviour, the survey reports that in 2014, 8% of Irish children aged 10-17 said they were smoking, compared to 23% in 1998. This is a further decrease since 2010 when the figure was 12%. 21% reported that they had ever been drunk, compared to 33% in 1998. 8% reported that they had used cannabis in the last year, compared to 12% in 1998.
In terms of positive behaviour, seat-belt wearing rates have almost doubled to 81% amongst children since 1998 and 34% reported that their health was excellent, compared to 28% in 1998. High rates of life satisfaction (76%) and reported happiness (89%) continue.
Commenting on the report, Minister Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy said: “This is very important research and I want to thank all of those involved and all of those who participated. We know that lifestyle patterns are established at an early age. We also know that chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiac disease, can develop as a result of lifestyle choices.
Having detailed information about the lifestyle choices of our children is hugely significant for the choices we make as a country on the future direction of our national health policy. It is important that we now listen to the responses of our children on these key questions and work together to build a health system that responds to this information.”
Commenting on the findings, Principal Investigator Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, stated: “This report is the culmination of many years of work, and brings some good news about the health behaviours of children in Ireland over the years, with the sustained decrease in smoking and in alcohol use for example.
Communication with parents also continues to improve. Yet more still needs to be done to improve their health, in particular around physical activity. Other areas of concern are the increases in feeling pressured by schoolwork. Importantly, the proportion of children reporting high life satisfaction and being happy, fundamental aspects of childhood, is high and has been sustained over the years, while health and safety behaviours such as wearing a seatbelt and brushing teeth have increased substantially.”