Most Irish youngsters aged seven to eight years are in very good health, according to their parents, the latest research from the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study reveals.
However, overweight and obesity remaina major health problems, particularly among children from low income families, with 15% of children reported as overweight and 5% as being obese.
Two reports published today by the ESRI describe the lives of 7- and 8-year-olds. One highlights areas where children most need support while the other examines how access to free GP care influences how frequently they are brought by their parents to the doctor.
The study found children’s use of GP services increased when they became eligible for free GP care.
It also revealed that 27% of children from lowest income families were overweight or obese compared with 16% of children from the highest income families.
Dietary quality was linked to family social class: 36% of children from families in the most socially disadvantaged group had a low dietary quality compared to 17% of children from a professional/ managerial background.
ESRI associate research professor Anne Nolan said: “Early intervention is critical as health in early life is linked to outcomes in later life, including education and employment. For this reason, it is important to understand how the financing system for healthcare in Ireland can restrict children’s use of GP services.”
The research also shows most children were reported to have adjusted well to school and doing well in terms of their socio-emotional development. However, boys are more likely than girls to find school difficult while children whose mothers have less education are more likely to find schoolwork difficult.
Welcoming the research, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said: “The findings show many children are doing well, settling into school and experiencing positive health and well-being. But they also draw attention to more problematic issues and help identify which groups are doing less well and where support may be required.
“This kind of information is invaluable.”
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