Most nine-year-olds not active enough

New findings from Growing Up in Ireland study
  • Deborah Condon

While most nine-year-olds in Ireland are not overweight, just one-quarter are physically active for the recommended 60 minutes per day, new research has found.

According to the findings, 78% of nine-year-old are not overweight, 17% are overweight and 5% are obese. However, just one-quarter are reaching the 60 minutes of physical activity as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), with more boys reaching this than girls (28% versus 22%).

The findings come from the Growing Up in Ireland study, an ongoing study which has been monitoring the development of nearly 20,000 children since 2006.

These latest findings are based on data from over 7,500 children and their families, who have been participating since the children were nine months old, and who are now nine years old.

They reveal that children in the highest income category are more likely to be active on more days of the week than those from the lowest income category.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority - 90% - of nine-year-olds spend some time watching TV/DVDs every day, while 23% have an online profile. Boys' profiles tend to be largely related to computer gaming, while girls' profiles are more often relation to social media.

Most mothers said that they have rules to manage their nine-year-olds' screen time, including rules about what content they can access and how long they can spend on their devices.

In terms of overall physical health, most children did not have any long-standing condition or disability, 11% had a condition but were not hampered by it, 10% had a condition which hampered them to some extent, while 2% were severely hampered.

The most common long-standing conditions reported were respiratory conditions, such as asthma, mental/behavioural conditions, such as ADHD, and skin conditions.

The research also found that 59% of nine-year-olds had experienced one or more of a set of 14 specific stressful life events, such as the death of a close family member, the serious illness of a family member and moving house.

Some 8% of nine-year-olds had experienced three or more of these stressful life events.

Meanwhile, the research also found that 87% of nine-year-olds live with both parents, and most parents report high levels of closeness with their children. Grandparents also play an important part of family life, with more than two in three children seeing grandparents at least once a week.

"These new findings from the latest round of Growing Up in Ireland data provide important insights into the lives of nine-year-olds. They also provide us with direct access to the voice of the child. While most are doing well, there are also areas of concern which will require action.

"The evidence of inequalities, with some children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds doing less well in a number of areas, does require attention," commented the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, at the launch of the findings.

The findings were launched at the 10th annual Growing Up in Ireland Research Conference in Dublin.


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