HEALTH BEHAVIOUR IN SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN (HBSC) IRELAND

World Health Organization Collaborative Cross-National Study

Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) is a cross-national research study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe. The study aims to gain new insight into, and increase our understanding of young people's health and well-being, health behaviours and their social context. In addition, the findings from the HBSC surveys are used to inform and influence children’s policy and practice at national and international levels. In Ireland, the study is conducted by researchers in the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

HBSC was initiated in 1982 and is conducted every 4 years.  HBSC 2014 involved more than 300,000 children from 44 countries.  The target age groups for the international HBSC study are 11, 13 and 15 year olds attending school. These age groups represent the onset of adolescence, the challenge of physical and emotional changes, and the middle years when important life and career decisions are beginning to be made.

For more information on the HBSC International Network see the HBSC International page or the website http://www.hbsc.org/ 

 

 

The population of young people (up to 19 years) in the Republic of Ireland is 1,154,706. Young people represent 27% of the population, which is higher than the European average (http://www.cso.ie/). With such a high proportion of young people, investing in their health and well-being is essential and HBSC plays a pivotal role in this regard.

Prof. Saoirse Nic Gabhainn of the Health Promotion Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway was invited to join the HBSC network in 1994 and conducted the first survey of Irish schoolchildren in 1998. The 2014 survey was the fifth time that Ireland has been involved in this international collaboration. HBSC Ireland surveys school-going children aged 9-18 years. More information on each survey can be found on the 20142010, 20062002 and 1998 pages

Findings from HBSC Ireland have been widely distributed in reports, journal articles, factsheets and presentations to various interest groups. A full list of publications, articles and presentations can be found on the publications page.

As well as serving a monitoring and a knowledge-generating function, one of the key objectives of HBSC has been to inform policy and practice. Irish data have been used to inform many government and international health organisations including:

  • Department of Children and Youth Affairs 
  • Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs 
  • Department of Health 
  • Health Research Board
  • Institue of Public Health
  • Office for the Minister of Children and Youth Affairs 
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 
  • World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe


HBSC is a school-based survey with data collected through self-completion questionnaires administered by teachers in the classroom. Schools across the country are randomly selected and invited to participate. Full details on the procedures adopted can be found in the reports of the National Health and Lifestyle Surveys. The HBSC survey instrument is a standard questionnaire developed by the international research network and used by all participating countries.

Each survey questionnaire contains a core set of questions looking at the following:

  • Background factors: demographics and maturation, social background (family structure, socio-economic status)
  • Individual and social resources: body image, family support, local neighbourhood, peers, school environment 
  • Health behaviours: physical activity, eating and dieting, smoking, alcohol use, cannabis use, bullying and injuries
  • Health outcomes: symptoms, life satisfaction, self-reported health, Body Mass Index
  • Many countries, including Ireland,  also include additional items in their national questionnaire that are of particular interest on a national level.

For further information on the design of the International HBSC survey go to http://www.hbsc.org/.  

 

In addition to publishing findings from the HBSC surveys, members of the HBSC Ireland team also work on specific areas of interest and have also worked on many research projects. A full list of these projects can be found under Linked Reseach Projects.

Youth Participation

The HBSC Ireland team have been working on the development of a range of research methodologies designed to facilitate active participation of young people in the research process. For the 2014 HBSC Ireland survey round, the Irish questionnaire included child-developed questions that had been prepared by children from all over the country. This initiative was conducted in partnership with the Citizen Participation Unit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Government of Ireland. See the Youth Participation page for more information on this topic.