Life satisfaction for Irish teens ranked among lowest in Europe

Irish adolescents less likely to say they drink or smoke, but many suffer cyberbullying

Irish teenagers are among the least satisfied with life compared to their counterparts in 45 countries, according to a major new study.

The country’s 15-year-olds ranked second from the bottom when it came to life satisfaction in a table of European countries, above only Malta.

And 13-year-olds here reported lower than average satisfaction with life, ranking 35th in the survey. Only 11-year-olds seemed more content, ranking 25th in their age group for life satisfaction.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) study featured survey responses from more than 227,000 children aged 11, 13, and 15, from 44 different European countries and Canada.


When it came to alcohol consumption, Irish 13-year-olds ranked among the least likely to say they had tried alcohol before, 39th out of 45 countries. Greece topped the table, followed by Wales, France and then England. Similarly, Irish 15-year-olds surveyed ranked below the average.

Irish teens and tweens were also among the least likely to state they had smoked tobacco before – 11-year-olds were third from the bottom out of 42 other countries, 13-year-olds were fifth from the bottom, and 15-year-olds were eight from the bottom of the table.

The Irish component of the study, published on Tuesday, was led by Prof Saoirse Nic Gabhainn in NUI Galway's Health Promotion Research Centre.


Ireland ranked in the middle of the table when it came to 15-year-olds who had smoked cannabis before, with Bulgaria at the top.

The survey shows Irish teenagers rank high for problematic social media use compared to other countries. Problematic use of social media relates to an over-reliance on platforms, or where the young person felt unhappy when they were not online, or if their social media use created other problems in their life such as family disputes.

Irish 13-year-olds were the fifth highest in the survey of European countries to report problematic social media use. And they also experienced higher than average cyberbullying, with both teenage groups ranking 10th in the table when it came to having been cyberbullied in recent months. Girls were more likely than boys to have experienced online abuse.

Irish 15-year-olds were less likely to report having had sex, ranking 32nd out of 43 countries.

In terms of diet, Irish adolescents were among the most likely to eat breakfast and reported low levels of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption, compared to peers in other countries. And Irish 11-year-olds surveyed also reported the third-highest levels of moderate or vigorous physical activity.

Prof Nic Gabhainn said the higher levels of problematic social media use and cyberbullying among Irish teenagers was one area of “concern”.

“It is positive to note we retain comparatively low rates of substance use and high rates of physical activity,” she said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times