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Nolan, Anne and Smyth, Emer (2021) Health and wellbeing in childhood and adolescence. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute. ESRI research bulletin December 2021.

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This research bulletin summarises the results from a series of ESRI research reports that used data from Growing Up in Ireland to examine the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Ireland, undertaken as part of a research programme funded by the HSE Health and Wellbeing Division. We used data from two cohorts of the Growing Up in Ireland survey, covering children born in 1998 and 2008, to examine issues of policy relevance to children and young people in three key domains of health and wellbeing: health behaviours, sexual health, and mental health and wellbeing.

P.2 The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about a third of the burden of disease in developed countries is directly attributable to four modifiable health behaviours: smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, poor diet and low levels of physical activity. While there is a large literature on these health behaviours in isolation, little is known about how these behaviours cluster together. For example, do those who smoke also have poor levels of physical activity? Using data from the ’98 Cohort at 17 years of age, this research examined how these four key risk factors for disease cluster together among young people. Three health behaviour clusters were identified (see report Figure 1):

  • A ‘healthy’ group (43 per cent) who did not smoke, drank rarely, engaged in exercise on six or more days in the previous fortnight and had the best quality diet;
  • An ‘unhealthy diet and physical activity’ group (36 per cent of 17-year-olds), who did not smoke, drank alcohol rarely (monthly or less) but had the worst levels of physical activity (just 1-2 days in the previous fortnight) and had the poorest dietary quality;
  • The remainder comprised an ‘unhealthy smokers and drinkers’ group (21 per cent of 17-year-olds), who had the highest level of alcohol consumption, were daily or occasional smokers, had moderate to low levels of physical activity and poor to moderate dietary quality.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
Alcohol, Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction, Screening / Assessment
8 December 2021
Identification #
ESRI research bulletin December 2021
9 p.
Economic and Social Research Institute
Place of Publication
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