Almost one-third of 17/18-year-olds ‘risky drinkers’, study finds

Under a third of group said they tried cannabis, while 8% smoked it occasionally

Nearly a third of 17- and 18-year-olds would be classed as risky or hazardous drinkers, according to the latest report from the major Growing Up in Ireland study.

Some 49 per cent of the 17/18-year-olds surveyed had tried smoking cigarettes, but only 8 per cent said they smoked daily.

The study is based on interviews with a cohort of more than 6,000 young people, repeated at various different stages of their youth.

The latest report, published on Thursday, found that one in 20 17/18-year-olds’ alcohol consumption would be deemed high risk or very high risk.


Some 80 per cent of teenagers’ parents expected their children to continue to higher education after secondary school, it found.

The study said the rates of adolescents who were overweight or obese was “concerning,” with a fifth of 17/18-year-olds overweight, and 8 per cent obese.

Long-term study

Growing Up in Ireland is a long-term study of several cohorts of children, interviewed at different stages of their youth. The study is led by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin, and funded by the Department of Children, and Atlantic Philanthropies.

The research has followed this group of young people since they were nine years old, and the most recent report draws on interviews from 2015 and 2016. At the time of the interviews, four-fifths of the cohort were aged 17, and the remainder were 18 years old.

One third of those surveyed said they had not paid the correct fare on public transport at least once in the last year, and 12 per cent had shoplifted previously.

The study found young men were more likely to report incidents of antisocial behaviour than their female peers. Children who had reported antisocial behaviour during previous interviews at age 13 were also more likely to report the same behaviour at 17/18 years of age.

Some 20 per cent of teenagers interviewed disclosed depressive symptoms, with a quarter of young women falling into the “likely to be depressed” category of a self-reported measure of symptoms.

Just under a third of 17/18-year-olds said they had tried cannabis, while 8 per cent smoked it occasionally, and with 2 per cent smoking it more than once a week, the study found.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they liked school, and 85 per cent said they felt they could talk to their teachers if they had a problem.

‘Very important’

When asked what factors they considered when deciding what to do upon finishing school, 57 per cent said their mother’s advice was “very important”.

Some 28 per cent of young people interviewed were involved in volunteer work, with the most common activities the scouts, fundraising work or sports-based volunteering.

The study revealed inequalities in school experiences between young people from different income backgrounds.

One third of teenagers from families in the lowest income bracket said they disliked school, compared to 16 per cent of teenagers in the top income bracket.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the findings highlighted “some worrying issues and reveal inequalities in some outcomes by social background and gender”.

Dr Eoin McNamara, who led the research, said while the interviews were conducted before the coronavirus crisis, the work suggested the pandemic would have a large impact on young people’s lives.

“Lack of access to school resources during the pandemic, such as career guidance, is likely to have been particularly consequential for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times