One Irish child in five goes to bed hungry - survey

Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 01:00

ONE IN five Irish children has reported having gone to school or bed hungry in 2010 because there was not enough food at home, according to the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey, up 4 per cent on the 2006 findings.

When asked how often they went to school or to bed hungry because there was not enough food at home, 21 per cent said they had, compared to 17 per cent of children in the survey published six years ago.

Younger children and children from lower social class groups were significantly more likely to have gone hungry than older children and those from other social class groups.

There was little change in the number of children who reported exercising four or more times a week, with 51 per cent reporting they did so in 2010, compared with 53 per cent in 2006.

Over a quarter of those aged between 15 and 17 reported having had sex, while boys and those from lower social class groups were more likely to report having ever had sex.

Of those who reported having had sex, 93 per cent said they had used a condom the last time they had, while 59 per cent said they had used a birth control pill.

There was a decrease in reports of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use among school children since the last survey took place in 2006.

The numbers of those reporting they currently smoked fell from 15 per cent six years ago to 12 per cent last year, while the proportion of children who said they had ever smoked declined from 36 per cent to 27 per cent.

The number of older girls who said they had ever smoked dropped from 57 per cent in 2006 to 47 per cent in 2010.

Alcohol consumption also decreased, with 46 per cent of children reporting ever drinking compared with 53 per cent in 2006.

The rates of those who reported they were current drinkers and reports of having been drunk in the last 30 days also fell. Children from lower social classes were more likely to report having been “really drunk”.

Reports of children using cannabis in the past 12 months halved between 2006, when 16 per cent of children reported having done so, to 8 per cent in 2010. The numbers of those who reported using cannabis in the past 30 days also dropped from 7 per cent in 2006 to 5 per cent in 2010.

A third of children said they were in excellent health, half said they felt “very happy” and more than three-quarters had “high life satisfaction”, with younger children and boys more likely to report positive health. Children from lower social class groups were less likely to report excellent health and high life satisfaction.

In welcoming the report, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said that while he was encouraged by the reduction in smoking, alcohol intake and drug use and a decrease in injuries among school- going children, much remained to be done.

“I am . . . very concerned at the statistics around exercise and physical activity and the number of children who still remain hungry, either going to school or going to bed at night,” he said. He would be in discussions with his colleague, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald, to examine this information and the actions required to address these issues.

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey 2010 is a cross-sectional study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe carried out every four years, with 43 countries and regions participating in 2010.

A total of 16,060 children aged between nine and 18 from 256 schools across Ireland participated in the survey.

The Irish survey was carried out by the health promotion research centre at NUI Galway. The aim of the survey is to increase our understanding of young people’s health and wellbeing, health behaviours and their social context.