Despite recession and bullying, most Irish teens happy


ADOLESCENCE IS a passage in life synonymous with hormone-fuelled misery, but that is not how contemporary Irish teenagers see it.

Nearly 80 per cent of them are happy to some degree and more than half are quite happy or very happy, according to a detailed survey of Irish teenagers.

A representative sample of 508 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 20 were interviewed for the Unicef Ireland Changing the Future: Experiencing Youth in Contemporary Irelandreport.

Unicef said it carried out the survey because there is a dearth of primary information about attitudes among teenagers.

It found that Irish teenagers are acutely aware of the recession and more than half have experienced bullying. They are irreligious to a degree which previous generations would have found quite startling. Only 12 per cent go to a church on a regular basis.

Despite living in a country in the throes of an economic meltdown, only one in five teenagers described their mood as being neutral or unhappy.

Unicef Ireland executive director Melanie Verwoerd said it was “very heartwarming” that Irish teenagers were so happy, but she contrasted that with their pessimism about the future, as one- third said they did not expect things to get any better in the near future.

“We believe it is important for us to acknowledge this significant number of young people for whom being young in Ireland is significantly more challenging, and less positive an experience,” she said.

The survey found that 97 per cent of teenagers were aware of the recession. That manifested itself overwhelmingly in less household money (93 per cent). One-quarter of all Irish teenagers have direct experience of a parent being made redundant. A total of 4 per cent had to move school as a result of the recession.

Bullying remains a serious concern for all teenagers. A total of 55 per cent were bullied. Though “cyberbullying” was quite common (20 per cent), traditional forms of bullying were most prevalent. Of those who were bullied, 96 per cent were bullied with words and 43 per cent were bullied with actions.

Some 24 per cent of those who were physically bullied were beaten up, 33 per cent were attacked, 55 per cent had things thrown at them and 59 per cent had things stolen.

Ms Verwoerd said it was an indictment of society that the issue was not being dealt with properly. The statistics were backed up by comments from many who participated in the survey who said they felt physically sick, completely isolated or suicidal as a result of bullying.

She also said Unicef Ireland was taken by surprise by the fact that only 12 per cent of teenagers attended a religious service on a regular basis, a result which she described as “incredibly significant”.

Nearly one-quarter said they were not religious, 21 per cent said they were spiritual but not religious, 23 per cent said they were religious but didn’t go to church regularly, and 14 per cent said they used to be religious but didn’t go to church anymore. The majority of Irish young people report that religion does not affect their happiness, with only 40 per cent saying that it does.

Yesterday’s report is one of four that will be published by Unicef this year arising out of the survey.

Further reports will cover mental health issues, drink and drugs, and sexual behaviour.


37% think money issues will improve over the next two years

57% say religion makes them neither happy nor unhappy

55% reported being bullied, with 96% of that figure bullied with words

14% of Irish teenagers say they are very happy

38% say they are quite happy while

7% said they were very unhappy

12% say they go to a church on a regular basis