Active and Healthy

Below we present a range of data that provides "snap shots" of how children and young people in Ireland are doing in relation to National Outcome 1: Active and healthy, physical and mental wellbeing.

Baby and infant health

  • 99% of 9-month-old infants had their first 6-week check-up and subsequent vaccinations by 2 months of age (99%) and 4 months of age (98%). At 6 months, this fell to 92% (Growing Up in Ireland, 2010).
  • ​In 2010, the Growing Up in Ireland study found that breastfeeding initiation rates in Ireland are among the lowest in the world, at 56%, compared to 92% in Australia and 77% in Britain (Growing Up Ireland, 2010).​ A more recent report by the Health Service Executive indicates a similar figure, with 55.7% of infants ever being breastfed in 2013 (Health Services Executive, 2014).
  • For mothers under 20 years, only 25.1% of their children had ever been breastfed (Health Services Executive, 2014a).
  • Infants whose mothers were born outside Ireland were much more likely to be breastfed: 83% compared to 48% of infants whose mother was born in Ireland (Growing Up in Ireland 2011a).
  • The number of mothers giving birth below the age of 20 has dropped considerably since 2009. There were 1,253 births to mothers under 20 in 2014, a 44.3% decrease from 2,249 births in 2009 (Central Statistics Office, 2015). 

Physical well being

  • ​​​​​​​​​The majority of children surveyed within the Growing Up in Ireland Study (2009) are in good health from birth to 9 years. Some 73% of 9-year-olds are considered very healthy, with no health problems.
  • For those with problems, respiratory illnesses accounted for almost half (46%) of all chronic illnesses among 9-year-olds, with socio-emotional, learning and behavioural problems accounting for a further 19% (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009).
  • 4% of male and 4.7% of female 16-24 year olds perceived their health as being “fair, bad or very bad” (Department of Health, 2014).
  • A quarter of 3-year-olds are overweight and 26% of 9 and 13-year-olds are overweight or obese (Growing Up in Ireland, 2011b/2011c/2012a).
  • 6.3% of young people aged 0-24 have a disability (Central Statistics Office, 2011).
  • In the 2011 Census, 97,571 young people between 0 to 24 years have a disability. 44,513 were aged 15-24 (Central Statistics Office, 2011).
  • 12.3% of hospital discharges and 4.4% of in-patient bed days were in the 1-14 age group (Economic and Social Research Institute, 2013).
  • In 2013, 17.6% of in-patient activity and 8.4% of in-patient bed days were in the 1-24 age group (Healthcare Pricing Office, 2014). 

Mental wellbeing

  • ​A Headstrong report from 2013 states that 75% of mental health disorders emerge before the age of 25 (Headstrong, 2013). 
  • In 2013 there were 59 deaths by suicide to young people aged 24 and under (Central Statistics Office, 2014).
  • In 2013 there were 2,928 cases of hospitalised self-harm by young people aged 24 and under. The self-harm rate was highest among the young – among 15-24 year-olds for women and among 20-24 year-olds for men (Griffin et al., National Suicide Research Foundation, 2014). 

Are children and young people using drugs or alcohol?

  • 15% of 13-year-olds have tried alcohol (Growing Up in Ireland, 2012b).
  • Among 15-16 year old students surveyed in 2011, 80% of boys and 81% of girls reported that they had consumed alcohol at some point in their life (European Schools Project on Alcohol and Drugs, 2012).Over half of 16-year-olds have been drunk and 1 in 5 or 20% of 16-year-olds are weekly drinkers (European Schools Project on Alcohol and Drugs, 2012).
  • In 2011, eighty-four per cent of 15-16 year old students reported that alcohol was easy or fairly easy to acquire in Ireland. 26% had bought alcohol for their own consumption in an off-trade outlet and 37% had bought alcohol from an on-trade outlet in the 30 days prior to the survey (European Schools Project on Alcohol and Drugs, 2012).
  • 91% of 13-year-olds have never smoked (Growing Up in Ireland, 2012b).
  • 1% of 13-year-olds have tried cannabis, 3% solvents or inhalants, and 0.4% have used other drugs, such as ecstasy and heroin (Growing Up in Ireland, 2012b).
  • According to the European Schools Project on Alcohol and Drugs Survey in 2011, 19% of 15-16 year old students have tried an illicit drug. Cannabis accounted for 94.7% of students who had tried an illicit drug (2012).

How physically active are our children and young people?

  • 25% of 9-year-olds meet the recommended 60 minutes a day physical activity (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009).
  • 47% of 9-year-olds were involved in structured cultural activities, such as dance, ballet, arts and drama. More than twice the number of girls (65%) than boys (31%) took part in these activities. Participation was also significantly related to maternal education and family income (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009).
  • 97% of 9-year-olds reported playing sport at least once a week. Boys were significantly more likely to play sport every day (61%) compared to girls (52%) (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009).
  • Participation in structured sports or organised activities was related to social advantage at both 9 and 13 years of age (Growing Up in Ireland, 2012a).

Click here for data sources and references.


Find out more:

Want to find out more about how children and young people are doing in education?

Are children and young people in Ireland safe and secure?

What about poverty or employment?

What do we know about diversity and children and young people's sense of belonging within society


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