MORE than one in four school children admit they have been drunk – and many are also taking less exercise, according to a new report.
The survey which tracks the health behaviours of school-going children aged 10-17 found alcohol abuse remains a significant problem.
As many as 28.3pc in the latest survey admit they have been drunk, down just slightly from 29.3pc of an earlier generation of school-goers in 1998.
Another worrying trend is the fall in physical activity with just 50pc saying they take exercise more than four times a week, compared to 53.5pc in 1998. Only 40.5pc of girls are regularly exercising.
However, the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children report covering 1998-2010 found a much bigger improvement when it comes to smoking.
While 21pc of school-goers smoked in 1998 it had dropped to 12pc by 2010, the findings showed. However, 8pc are smoking cannabis, down marginally from 10pc in 1998.
Health Minister James Reilly – who launched the report – admitted it was a mixed bag of results with a particularly worrying picture of exercise levels in light of recent figures showing high levels of child obesity.
"I want to see more healthy choices in vending machines in post-primary schools," he said.
Less drinking, smoking and cannabis use was a step in the right direction, he added.
Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, principal investigator in NUI Galway said there were several positives to emerge from the findings involving more than 40,000 children, including reports that young people are now more inclined to communicate with their parents.
This is particularly marked for fathers, with 59.8pc of young people now saying they talk more openly to them compared to 42pc in 1998.
Children are also more communicative with their mothers – up from 74pc in 1998 to 81.7pc in 2010. As many as 91pc of children say they are happy with their life compared to 89pc in 1998.
There has been a significant fall in the numbers who admit to being bullies – down from 24pc to 16.4pc.
Some 76pc of children reported high life satisfaction in 2010, up 1pc on the 2002 figure. One in three children rated their health as excellent compared to 28pc in 2002.
As expected, young people are full of contradictions. Despite their growing contentment, more say they feel low at least weekly in the last six months – 24pc compared to 22.5pc in 1998.
And despite being more open with mothers and fathers they are less likely to be living with both parents, down significantly from 91.4pc to 73.7pc.
More children like school but they also say they feel increasingly pressured by school work – up from 33.3pc to 41.1pc.
One in two children say they talk to their friends via phone, text message or the internet compared to one in three in 2002.
More are likely to believe teachers treat children fairly – up from 55.4pc to 63pc. Slightly more say they feel safe in their areas, 53.5pc compared to 52.9pc.