Studies are released every second week, a sugar tax is being introduced – we have never been more aware of how urgent an issue childhood obesity is – and yet the problem, it seems, is only getting worse.


This certainly seems to be the case, according to the latest statistics released in the latest Growing Up in Ireland studies.


The Economic and Social Research Institute conducted two reports recently, on children and young people in Ireland.


The first report covers the lives of seven- and eight-year-olds, and explores interventions that could help them to achieve positive outcomes in later life.


Some good news to take from this report, is that most seven- and eight-year-olds in Ireland are in good health right now.



However, weight problems are still a major issue, with 15 percent of children reported to have been overweight, and five percent classed as being obese.


Often, medical professionals will look at the link between a child’s weight and the quality of their diet, and some interesting findings were made in this realm.


The authors of this study were able to link dietary quality with family social class. Indeed, 36 percent of children from families in the most socially disadvantaged group had a low dietary quality compared to 17 percent of children from a professional background.


Commenting on the findings, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said: “Obesity and diet are issues which must continue to be addressed to ensure the health of our children.


Growing Up in Ireland is a significant state investment in research on children’s lives, funded by my Department – it helps us to understand children’s lives and experiences. This evidence will feed into future policy – not just in my own area but right across Government.”



The second Growing Up in Ireland report examined how access to free GP care influences how frequently children use GP services, and highlighted the importance of this free service regardless of the ability to pay.


The study authors found that at nine months, income played an important role when deciding to visit a GP for children without a full medical card or GP visit card. By age three, this effect had largely disappeared.


Anne Nolan, Associate Research Professor at the ESRI, observed: “Chronic ill-health can be a lifelong burden for the child, their family and the wide community.


“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.”