Home > Growing Up in Ireland. The life of a 17/18-year-old in 2016.

[ESRI] Growing Up in Ireland. The life of a 17/18-year-old in 2016. (03 Nov 2016)

External website: http://www.esri.ie/news/the-growing-up-in-ireland-...

The latest research findings from the Growing Up in Ireland study provide significant insights into the lives of 17- and 18-year-olds in Ireland. The data are published in the latest Key Findings reports from the national longitudinal study of children.


The information in the Key Findings reports are the first results from interviews with just over 6,000 17/18-year-olds who have been participating in the study since 2007, when they were 9 years old.  The findings focus on four aspects of their lives:

  1. Education and Early Work Experiences
  2. Health, Weight, Physical Activity and Diet
  3. Life Satisfaction, Relationships and Mental Health
  4. Risky Health Behaviours and Sexual Activity


Risky Health Behaviours and Sexual Activity Adolescence is often characterised as a time of self-discovery, of new experiences, of forging new relationships.  It is often a time of experimentation with tobacco, alcohol and other drugs as well as first sexual experiences.  Many of these behaviours can have important consequences in terms of health, education and relationships, as well as interaction with the criminal justice system.


  • The majority of 17/18-year-olds had consumed alcohol – 89%.  A minority (6%) of 17/18-year-olds said they drank 2-3 times per week, 40% drinking 2-4 times per month and 48% monthly or less. In general, males tended to drink more often than females.
  • When the young people were interviewed four years ago at 13 years of age 16% of them said they had already drank alcohol (more than a few sips).  These young people who had early experience of alcohol were more likely to be frequent drinkers and to consume more units of alcohol in a sitting when they drank, by the time they were 17/18 years of age.
  • 51% of 17/18-year-olds said that they had never smoked – 12% said they smoked ‘occasionally’ and 8% said they smoked daily.  Smoking was strongly related to family social group – 5% of young people from Professional/Managerial backgrounds said they smoked, compared with 17% of those from the most disadvantaged social group.
  • As with drinking alcohol, smoking from an earlier age was associated with heavier smoking by the age of 17/18 years – 31% of those who had smoked a cigarette by 13 years smoked daily by the time they were 17/18 years old, compared with only 6% of those who hadn’t smoked by 13 years.
  • Just over one-third of 17/18-year-olds had tried e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) – 40% of males compared with 28% of females.
  • When asked if they had ever used cannabis 69% of 17/18-year-olds said they had not; 17% used it ‘once or twice’; 4% said they ‘used to use it but not now’, 8% said they used it ‘occasionally’ and 2% said they used it ‘more than once a week’.

17/18-year-olds were asked a series of questions about their romantic and sexual experiences. The questions referred to a hierarchy of ten romantic and sexual activities such as holding hands, kissing, touching etc., culminating in questions on oral sex and sexual intercourse. This meant that because the activities were presented sequentially, there were several points at which this particular section of the interview could end, depending upon the young person’s responses to earlier questions.

  • 40% of 17/18 years olds reported that they had had oral sex, while 33% reported that they had had sexual intercourse.  Males were more likely to report being sexually active than females (45% compared to 39%).
  • 56% of 17/18-year-olds who reported having had sexual intercourse also reported that they always used a condom, although a sizeable minority (11%) said they never used one.  Further, 79% of 17/18 year-olds who had had sexual intercourse said that they or their partner always used some form of contraception, although 6% said that they never/hardly ever used any form of contraception.
  • 13% of 17/18-year-olds said that they felt a little pressure and 4% said they felt a lot of pressure to have sex.  6% also said that they were afraid of losing a partner through not having sex with them. 

[For the full press release, please click on the URL above]


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