Schoolkids going hungry - major survey
Smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use among Irish schoolchildren have all fallen in recent years - however, a growing number of children are going without breakfast or going to bed hungry.
In addition, exercise and physical activity rates have not increased among schoolchildren in recent years.
These are among the main findings of a major new report on health behaviour in school-aged children in Ireland (HBSC), based on a survey carried out in 2010.
The survey of 16,060 nine-18 year olds from 256 schools across the country found that reports of current smoking among the schoolchildren had declined from 15% to 12% since the last similar survey in 2006, while the numbers of those who had ever smoked declined from 36% to 27%.
Reported cannabis use in the past 12 months among children decreased between 2006 and the latest study. Cannabis use in 2010 was 8% in 2010 compared to 16% in 2006, and cannabis use in the previous 30 days decreased from 7% to 5%.
Boys and older children were more likely to report use of cannabis.
On alcohol consumption, 46% of children reported ever drinking in the latest study compared to 53% in 2006. Twenty one per cent reported being current drinkers, compared to 26% in 2006.
Rates of drunkenness decreased from 32% to 28%. Older children and boys were more likely to report drinking and drunkenness, while children from lower social classes were more likely to report having been 'really drunk.'
It was found that 13% of children aged 10 to 17 reported they never had breakfast during weekdays - 15% of girls reported that they never had breakfast during weekdays compared to 11% of boys. Two per cent of third and fourth class children reported not having breakfast on any day of the week.
Children were asked to report how often they went to school or to bed hungry because there was not enough food at home - overall, 21% of children reported ever going to school or to bed hungry, compared to 17% in 2006.
Younger children or those from lower social classes were significantly more likely to report ever going to school or to bed hungry.
On eating behaviour, 20% of children reported that they consumed fruit more than once a day, compared to 19% in 2006, while 20% reported eating vegetables more than once a day, compared to 18% in 2006.
Girls, younger children and those from higher social classes were more likely to report regular fruit and vegetable consumption.
The proportion of children who said they ate sweets daily or more often dropped from 39% to 37% since 2006, while soft drink consumption dropped from 26% to 21%.
Older children and children from lower social classes were more likely to report regular consumption of sweets and soft drinks.
It was found there had been little change in reported frequency of exercise or physical activity since 2006.
Overall, 51% of children reported exercising four or more times per week, compared to 53% in 2006, while 9% of children said they participated in vigorous exercise less then weekly, compared to 10% in 2006.
Twenty five per cent said they were physically active on seven days in the previous week, compared to 27% in 2006. Children from lower social classes were more likely to report inactivity.
The rates of children reporting ever being bullied remained unchanged since 2006, at 24%, while the proportion of children who said they had bullied others in the previous two months dropped from 22% to 17%.
On sexual behaviour, 27% of 15-17 year-olds reported that they had ever had sex, and of these, 93% reported that they had used a condom the last time they had sex and 59% reported that they had used birth control pills.
Commenting on the findings, Health Minister James Reilly said while he was encouraged by the reduction in smoking, alcohol and drug use, much remained to be done.
He said he was very concerned about the statistics on exercise among schoolchildren and on the numbers who reported going hungry to school or to bed.
The study was carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe.
View the complete study here
[Posted: Mon 16/04/2012]