Home > Growing Up in Ireland. Wave 4 at 20-years.

ESRI and Trinity College Dublin. (2019) Growing Up in Ireland. Wave 4 at 20-years. Dublin: ESRI; Trinity College Dublin; and Department of Youth and Community Affairs.

PDF (1. Growing Up in Ireland: Being 20 years old)
PDF (2. Growing Up in Ireland: Health (drug, alcohol, tobacco data))
PDF (3. Growing Up in Ireland: Socio-emotional well-being)
PDF (4. Growing Up in Ireland: education)

This Key Findings report presents summary information on the lives and circumstances of the 20-year-olds from the fourth wave of 5,191 interviews with Growing Up in Ireland’s older Cohort ’98 between August 2018 and June 2019.


Findings no.1, Growing Up in Ireland: being 20 years old, includes:

Figure 10: Young people’s contact with the Gardaí/courts

Figure 11: Contact of 20-year-olds with the Gardaí/courts by background characteristics and anti-social behaviour at age 13

Figure 12: Whether the young adult has been a victim of crime (last 2 years), by type of crime

Figure 13: Whether the young adult has been a victim of crime and type of crime, by gender

Figure 18: Rate of 20-year-olds spending more than 3 hours on a typical weekday on screen-based activities

Figure 19: Reasons 20-year-olds use the internet, by gender


Findings no. 2, Growing Up in Ireland: physical health and development, includes:

P.9 Smoking: Most 20-year-olds reported that they had ‘ever smoked a cigarette or cigar’; 26% reported having never done so (Figure 13). Overall, 23% of young adults reported that they smoked occasionally, while 15% said they smoked daily and 7% used to smoke but not now. The average age at which they had their first cigarette was 16. On average, those who smoked daily had nine cigarettes per day, while occasional smokers had five cigarettes per week. Almost half of all young adults (48%) had ‘ever tried an e-cigarette or “vaping”’, although only 5% used them at least once a week.

P.10 Alcohol: Overall, 96% of young adults reported that they had ‘ever consumed alcohol’, while 93% overall reported that they currently drank. About two-thirds of 20-year-olds stated that they drank 2-4 times per month or monthly or less, while almost one-quarter drank at least twice per week (Figure 14). On average, young adults were 15.9 years old when they had their first alcoholic drink.

P.10 Other drugs

Almost 60% of all 20-year-olds reported that they had ‘ever tried cannabis’ (59%; Figure 15). Just over one-quarter (26%) said they had tried cannabis once or twice; 18% said that they took it occasionally; 6% took it more than once a week and 9% don’t take cannabis anymore. Regarding other non-prescribed drugs such as ‘ecstasy, cocaine etc.’; 13% reported that they had tried them less than 5 times while 15% said they had done so five or more times. Nine percent of all young adults had used ‘prescription drugs for “recreational” use’.


Findings no.3, Socio-emotional well-being and key relationships at age 20, includes:

Figure 3: Percentage of 20-year-olds in higher stress categories (moderate, severe or extremely severe), by main activity

Table 1: Total depressive symptoms score, and percentage reporting clinically significant depressive symptoms

Figure 4: Elevated depressive symptoms at 20 years by number of waves in top decile of a depressive symptoms scale at 13 and 17/18 years

Figure 6: 20-year-olds in top self-reported reactive aggression quintile by previous mother-reported conduct problems

Figure 7: Percentage of 20-year-olds ‘often’ employing each coping strategy (includes Drink alcohol or smoke /

Consult a professional / Take prescribed medication / Recreational drugs)

Figure 8: Percentage of mothers reporting immediate concerns about their 20-year-old sons and daughters in each domain (includes: Develop drink / drug problem)

Figure 9: Mother-reported areas of disagreement at least once a month with 20-year-old sons and daughters (includes Drinking, smoking or drug use)


Findings no. 4, Growing Up in Ireland: education, training and employment, includes:

Figure 3: Main reasons for leaving school among early school-leavers (20-year-olds)

Figure 4: School experiences at ages 9 and 13 of 20-year-olds who were early school-leavers (ESL) compared to Leaving Certificate (LC) completers (reading test score at 9; attitudes to school at 13; interaction with teachers at 13)

Figure 6: Participation in education and training since leaving school by gender and mother’s education

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