Launch of the ‘Health Behaviour in School-aged Children’ Survey 2014

Pictured at the launch from L- R : Dr Colette Kelly and Dr Eimear Keane from NUI Galway, Dr Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Health, Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn and Aoife Gavin from NUI Galway.
Dec 10 2015 Posted: 12:25 GMT

The Health Promotion Research Unit at NUI Galway delivers promising findings from national study in the health behaviours of our children


Dr Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Health today, 9 December 2015, launched the main findings from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland Survey 2014, carried out by the Health Promotion Research Unit at NUI Galway.

The HBSC study is a cross-sectional study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe.  Findings in the report are based on 13,611 school students from 230 schools across the county and are compared with data from the last HBSC survey in 2010.

In welcoming the report, Minister for Health, Dr Leo Varadkar stated: “I welcome the decrease in smoking levels and drunkenness as well as the increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among children in Ireland. I am concerned about children’s exposure to second hand smoke and the ease at which young people report being able to purchase cigarettes. There are also still a worrying number of children going to bed hungry and skipping breakfast. If we can convince children that healthy habits and lifestyles are worth pursuing, then we have got a better chance of these children maintaining healthy behaviours and habits into adulthood. Being healthy and preventing disease is a key focus of Healthy Ireland.”

Commenting on the findings, Principal Investigator Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn stated: “This report brings welcome good news about the health behaviours and well-being of children in Ireland with a decrease in smoking, alcohol and cannabis use. Further, the majority of children in Ireland report having high life satisfaction. However there are areas of children’s lives where we need to continue to encourage positive healthy behaviours particularly around physical activity and nutrition.”

Key Findings 2014 (Main Study, 10-17 year olds)

  • A decrease in the proportion of children reporting tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use from 2010.  Overall 8% report that they currently smoked (12% in 2010); 21% report ever being really drunk (31% in 2010) and 8% report cannabis use in the last 12 months (9% in 2010).
  • New to the study this time, young people were asked about their exposure to second hand smoke in their family home and family car (12% reported adults allowed to smoke in family home; 16% report adults allowed to smoke in family car).
  • Children were asked about cyberbullying. Overall, 13% of children report ever being bullied in the past couple of months by being sent mean messages and 15% ever being bullied in the past couple of months by someone posting unflattering or inappropriate pictures of them online without permission.
  • Overall, 27% of young people aged 15-17 years old report having ever had sex.
  • An increase in the proportion of young people who report eating fruit and/or vegetables more than once a day (fruit: 23% 2014 vs. 20% in 2010) (vegetable: 22% 2014 vs. 20% in 2010).  There is a decrease in the proportion of young people who report eating unhealthy foods.  Overall, 27% report eating sweets daily or more (37% in 2010) and 13% report soft drink consumption daily or more (21% in 2010).
  • The proportion of young people who report excellent health, feeling very happy with their life and high life satisfaction has remained stable or unchanged from 2010.


Study Context

The survey runs every four years and in 2014 there were 44 participating countries and regions (  The 2014 Irish HBSC survey, carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway is the fifth round of data collection in Ireland. The overall study aims to gain new insight into, and increase our understanding of young people’s health and wellbeing, health behaviours and their social context. As well as serving as a monitoring and a knowledge-generating function, one of the key objectives of HBSC has been to inform policy and practice.

A total of 13,611 children aged 9-18 from 230 schools across Ireland participated in the 2014 survey.  Overall, 59% of invited schools and 84.5% of invited children participated.  This report includes findings from the HBSC main study, which includes children from 5th class to 5th year and middle childhood, which includes children in 3rd and 4th class in primary schools.

For the first time in the Irish HBSC survey, children and young people from across the country identified new priorities for the study and these findings are also presented in this report.

Click the link to view the Irish HBSC survey.


Marketing and Communications


Featured Stories