Irish teens don't feel they receive enough support from their families
Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30
Irish adolescents don't feel they get enough support from their families and peers, but are less likely to drink or smoke, according to a new Europe-wide survey.
Irish teens rank in the bottom four countries for believing they have high support from their families.
And Ireland is in the lowest third of countries for the proportion of young people who say they have strong back-up from their peers.
The weaker emotional bonds felt by Irish teens were highlighted in the World Health Organisation's cross-national survey of young people aged between 11 and 15 years in 42 countries.
Emotional support from family and friends was highlighted as crucial in helping teenagers deal with stressful situations and buffer them against negative influences.
"Social support from peers and parents is critical for psychological wellbeing," said the report.
It found that Irish teens rank in the bottom 10 countries for bullying others at school.
However, compared to their peers in other nations, the number of old children who suffer cyberbullying is high.
The report warned: "Although research into cyberbullying is relatively recent, clear and worrying relations have been found between being a victim of cyberbullying and negative mental health outcomes, such as depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation."
The report, which aims to give a snapshot into life as an adolescent today, showed when it comes to life satisfaction, Irish 15 year olds are ranked in the bottom 10 countries.
However, several positive trends emerged, including a fall in alcohol consumption and smoking. Ireland was seen as having some of the most "abstemious" teenagers when it comes to regular drinking of alcohol.
Bulgaria tops the table for regular drinking among early teens.
Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands and Spain have the most responsible teens. Some 6pc of 15-year-old boys in Ireland say they drink at least once a week.
By the time they reach the age of 11, more than 25pc of boys are obese or overweight in three-quarters of the countries surveyed.
Ireland is the only country where at the age of 11 more girls than boys are overweight.
A higher percentage of girls in all 42 countries said they thought they were too fat.
The survey, which is updated every four years, reveals that the proportion of 15-year-old Europeans who reported having a first cigarette at the age of 13 or younger fell from 24pc to 17pc between 2009/2010 and 2013/2014.
The reduction reported among girls was larger than that in boys and the data shows no consistent association with family affluence, suggesting that smoking behaviour is only partially determined by socioeconomic factors.
In Ireland, 12pc of Irish 15-year-old boys and 9pc of girls the same age said they first smoked at age 13.
When it comes to sexual activity, some 14pc of girls and 21pc of boys in Ireland said they had sexual intercourse by the time they were 15. The highest levels of sexual activity among 15-year-olds was reported in Bulgaria and they were also high in Wales and Scotland.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway said: "This study provides valuable insight into the health and wellbeing of children in Ireland.
"It also provides us with the opportunity to compare the health... of Irish children with children from other countries.
"We have seen improvements in some health enhancing behaviours. However, there are also some areas of concern. Irish children report lower levels of feeling high family and peer support. Cyberbullying increases with age in Ireland, more so than in other countries," she added.