Irish adolescents from lower-income families are more likely to use alcohol, cannabis, and cigarettes, contrary to the experience in the bulk of 42 countries surveyed by the World Health Organisation.
However, overall levels of drug use by adolescents in Ireland were typically below the average, with the exception of cigarette smoking among 11-year-old boys — which was three times higher than the average.
The WHO study found that Ireland had the strongest relationship of all the countries between family income and drunkenness and early use of cannabis.
The WHO’s Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Study was conducted in 42 countries, in Europe and including Russia and Canada. It found:
- A “significant” association (and the highest) between lower family affluence and adolescent first drunkenness, at age 13 or younger (10% higher in boys and 5% higher in girls);
- Second-highest association of lower affluence and weekly consumption in boys;
- A “significant” association (and the highest) between lower family affluence and first use of cannabis at age 13, or younger (10% higher in boys and 5% higher in girls);
- Third-highest association for cannabis use in last 30 days and lifetime use (with a “significant” relationship for girls in the latter category);
- A relationship between lower family affluence and first cigarette use, and a “significant” relationship among girls and weekly smoking.
In relation to overall levels of drug use, Ireland is generally below the average.
The country is near the bottom for alcohol use in all age categories, both in terms of frequency and drunkenness.
Only 1% of 11-year-old girls and boys here consumed alcohol at least once a week, compared to the study’s average of 2% of girls and 4% of boys.
Among 13-year-olds, the Irish rates were 2% for both genders, compared to a study average of 4% for girls and 7% for boys.
Among 15-year-olds, the rates here were 4% for girls and 6% for boys, compared to the average of 9% and 16%, respectively.
For cannabis, 9% of 15-year-old girls and 12% of boys in Ireland reported using it at some stage, compared to an average of 13% and 17%, respectively.
Ireland was towards the bottom of the table for 15-year-olds for first cigarette smoking, at age 13 or younger — 9% for girls and 12% for boys, compared to the average of 13% and 22%.
Despite that, Irish 11-year-old boys were towards the top, in terms of smoking at least once a week, at 3%, compared to the average of 1%. Girls were the same as the average (1%).
However, the Irish rating dropped thereafter. Among 13-year-olds, the rates were 2% for girls and 4% for boys (average of 3% and 4%).
The fall was greater by age 15, at 8% for both genders (average of 11%-12%).