One in five Irish 17-year-olds are 'unhealthy smokers and drinkers'

One in five Irish 17-year-olds are 'unhealthy smokers and drinkers'

OVER 20 per cent of Irish 17-year-olds are categorised as 'unhealthy smokers and drinkers' according to a recent study.

The Growing Up in Ireland survey examined the lives of nearly 5,000 17-year-olds across the country and found that over half of them are living 'unhealthy lifestyles'.

According to the findings, 43% of subjects were deemed to be 'healthy'. These are individuals who do not smoke, do not drink regularly, have a good diet, and exercise roughly once every two days.

Despite this, 21% fell into the category of 'unhealthy smokers and drinkers'. These individuals had the highest level of alcohol consumption, were daily or occasional smokers, and had moderate to low levels of physical activity and poor dietary habits.

Meanwhile, 36% of those surveyed fell into the 'unhealthy diet and physical exercise' group. These kids were only exercising around one or two days per fortnight and had the poorest dietary habits.

The survey also found that those whose mothers have lower levels of education are more likely to have poor diets and levels of physical exercise, while parental behaviour is more likely to determine whether someone drinks or smokes regularly.

Young people from working-class backgrounds were more likely to smoke and drink according to the study, while the same can be said of young people from single-parent households.

The study was funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Anne Nolan, one of the authors of the study, said that the findings showed a multi-faceted approach was needed to promote positive healthy behaviour and habits in Irish teenagers.

"The increasing emphasis on well-being as an area of learning at second-level offers further opportunities for promoting health behaviours during adolescence," Nolan said.

"The research findings show that measures to promote both school engagement and a more positive school climate, while important for educational outcomes, are likely to have positive spill-overs for other aspects of young people's lives, including health behaviours."