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Fewer school children are drinking alcohol every week

Young people are happier and healthier than they were 10 years ago. Good for them.

Image: Moyan Brenn via Flickr/CC

YOUNG PEOPLE ARE happier and healthier than their counterparts a decade ago, according to a major new study into the well-being of adolescents across Europe and North America.

A study released yesterday sheds new light on the habits and happiness of 11 to 15 year-olds in over 40 different countries across a 16 year period from 1994-2010, including some interesting insights into alcohol use.

Overall, the results suggest that contemporary adolescents are in a better position than past generations.

Laying the foundation for adulthood

Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, Principal Investigator for Ireland, said that the period studied is vitally important to development.

“Adolescence is a crucial stage in life when you lay the foundation for adulthood, whether that’s healthy or otherwise. While there is much to celebrate about the health and well-being of many young people today, others continue to experience real and worrying problems.”

Over the last decade in Ireland there has been a decline in school-aged children drinking alcohol weekly and in experiencing multiple injuries. There have also been improvements in both self-rated health and ease of communication with parents.

However, the study found increased pressure from school work and no reductions in bullying. The study also identified a significant rise in Ireland of children from less affluent families having more health complaints.

“By comparing today’s young people with their counterparts a decade ago we can better understand how their health is influenced by the circumstances in which they live; of real concern must now be the increases in social inequalities in Ireland, where children from poorer homes are more likely to report ill-health, and the gap between rich and poor has increased over time,” said Dr Nic Gabhainn.

The detailed analyses revealed that girls, older children and in particular those in Northern European countries experience lower levels of life satisfaction. Findings also reveal that in the majority of countries, children from less affluent families had more health complaints.

This inequality has increased significantly over time in Ireland, as it has in Austria, Canada, France and Lithuania.

Irish Doctors Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, Michal Molcho and Colette Kelly from the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway co-authored the study.

Read: Having more stuff doesn’t make you happier – so what does?

Read: 16 reasons to be happy in Ireland today

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