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May NUI Galway 2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study Underway
NUI Galway 2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study Underway
The 2018 HBSC study marks 20 years of research and will cover mental health, use of e-cigarettes, sunbed use and means of sunburn protection, romantic attraction, cyberbullying, traditional bullying and body image
The Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway is currently undertaking the 2018 Health Behaviour in School Aged Children (HBSC) study, and are asking Ireland’s schoolchildren to lend their voices to the research.
The study coincides with the 20th anniversary of Health Behaviour in School-aged Children in Ireland research, which in partnership with the World Health Organisation takes place every four years in over 40 countries and regions in Europe and North America. The findings from the 2018 research will be published in spring 2019.
Since 1998, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland study, carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, has completed six survey rounds, allowing them to analyse trends in child and adolescent health. The results show that many aspects of children’s lives in Ireland have improved, but there are still important challenges.
The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study adapts over time to the lifestyles and experiences of young people. New questions in the 2018 study will cover mental health and electronic media communication, the use of e-cigarettes, sunbed use and means of sunburn protection, romantic attraction, cyberbullying, traditional bullying and body image, and children’s sense of freedom and awareness of their rights as a young person.
All across Ireland, 10,000 young people in primary and secondary schools ranging from ages 9-17 will take part in the 2018 survey. Children will be invited to fill in a questionnaire asking about different aspects of their lives. The questions cover positive health behaviour such as physical activity, and negative health behaviours such as smoking and drinking, as well as wellbeing and life satisfaction. The study also asks questions in the contexts of children’s lives, like their friendships, families, schools and local communities. The analysis of their answers will inform policy and practice development in Ireland and Europe about how to support children and young people and how to improve their health and wellbeing.
Speaking about the research, Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “We strongly believe that young people should have a voice in any research on their health and welfare, and we keep them involved in all stages of the study. The Citizen Participation Unit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland research team is inviting schoolchildren to identify and prioritise areas that are important in their lives. Then the children from ages 9-17 write their own questions for inclusion in the HBSC Ireland survey. These questions from the children include, for example, how often children play with their families, how self-confident they are, and whether they feel comfortable with their friends.”
Examples of the trends observed in the HBSC Ireland study over the past 20 years:
- Between 1998 and 2014 there was a significant decrease in the proportion of children who reported being current smokers (22.6% in 1998; 8.3% in 2014). Other indicators of smoking, such as early onset of smoking, also showed favourable changes.
- Between 1998 and 2014 there was a statistically significant decrease in the proportion of children who reported having ever been drunk (33.0% in 1998; 21.0% in 2014). Other indicators of drinking, such as early age of having the first alcoholic drink, also showed favourable changes.
- Between 1998 and 2014 there was a significant increase in the proportion of children who reported to have brushed their teeth more than once a day (57.6% in 1998; 69.5% in 2014).
- Between 1998 and 2014 there was a statistically significant increase in the proportion of children who reported finding it easy to talk to their parents about things that really bother them (for fathers: 73.0% in 1998; 82.2% in 2014; for mothers, 47.4% in 1998; 69.3% in 2014).
The international Health Behaviour in School-aged Children research network agreed a group of ‘core’ questions on the fundamental aspects of healthy and risky activities, such as eating and dieting, smoking and alcohol, physical activity, school experience and support from family and friends that are used in all countries in exactly the same way. This means that the researchers at NUI Galway can compare young people’s health and wellbeing across all 40 plus countries that take part, and they believe it is crucial that young people have a voice in how their health is studied.
As well as serving as a monitoring and a knowledge-generating function, one of the key objectives of the HBSC research has been to inform decision-making about policy and practice. Irish data collected has been used to inform many national authorities and international health organisations. The Health Promotion Research Centre’s findings are channelled back to national and local youth health strategies, including the ‘State of the Nation’s Children’ and the ‘Better Outcomes Brighter Futures’ policy framework. Data from HBSC Ireland has been channelled into health-promoting initiatives including Tobacco Free Ireland and AlcoholAction Ireland, and are included in National Policy documents such as Healthy Ireland, the National Drugs and Alcohol Strategy, and the National Physical Activity plan.
International organisations like the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNESCO, the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also use data from the Irish HBSC study in their work.
A detailed report on the trends over time can be found here: http://www.nuigalway.ie/media/healthpromotionresearchcentre/hbscdocs/nationalreports/HBSC-Trends-Report-2017-(web).pdf
For more information about Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/hbsc/