Is it teething time for your little one?
New study reveals nearly 7 in 10 children aged between 9-12 experience anxiety

Laya healthcare has released the findings of a national research study examining the overall health and wellbeing of children aged 9 – 12 in Ireland. The study explores the status of the physical, nutritional, and mental health of children and ‘tweenagers’ and aims to highlight the areas where parents and families are most in need of support and information. The results were revealed as laya healthcare hosted the world premiere of Laya Super Troopers TV, the newest element in the established Super Troopers health homework programme. The children of St. Benedict’s and St. Mary’s national school in Raheny took part in an exclusive screening of the first episode in the 28-part series that aims to provide families and children with fun activities and advice on how to promote a healthier lifestyle for all the family.

The results of the nationally representative study reveal the reality of the mental health and wellbeing of the children of the nation. Of the parents surveyed, 68% claim that their child experiences anxiety and can go through periods of low mood, with 4% describing their child is very anxious and in need of reinforcement.i This situation for families has been further compounded by COVID-19 as 40% of parents report that pandemic has had a negative impact on their child’s mental health and 57% of parents claim that their child gets upset more easily now than they did before its onset.

The importance of physical exercise and the positive impact it has on their child’s mental health is widely recognised by parents, with 87% saying that their child is noticeably happier after taking part in physical activity.i Despite this, the study findings reveal that more than half (58%) of children aged between 9 – 12 are not getting the recommended one hour of daily physical activity.i This represents a steep decline in activity levels amongst children of the same age group from 2018 when 51% of children were getting more than an hour of activity per day.

The parents surveyed recognised that nutrition and diet remains an area with an unmet need for parents in terms of support and information, as 47% of parents claim that their children have access to too many unhealthy food options, and one third of parents saying that they would like to teach their children to cook but do not have the tools or information to know where to begin.

Laya Super Troopers TV

The research findings were released as laya healthcare launches a 28-part TV series – Laya Super Troopers TV – as the newest element of the established health homework programme. The series, which features stars such as Johnny Sexton, Anna Geary and Karl Henry alongside well-known personalities, sportspeople and health and wellness experts, focuses on nutrition, physical activity, and mental wellbeing. Hosted by child presenters MJ Kearin (12), Daniel Shields (14) and Juliet McKenna (12), the Laya Super Troopers TV episodes are available to everyone and feature an array of fun activities, advice, and lots of challenges for children, parents and teachers to do themselves.

Endorsed by Healthy Ireland, the Laya Super Troopers programme has benefitted more than one million children since its launch six years ago and 600 schools will take part in the programme this academic year. As Ireland’s first health homework initiative Laya Super Troopers encourages children and families to integrate achievable yet impactful activities into their daily lives. Hosted by children, Laya Super Troopers TV is a fun and engaging series that provides viewers with tips and activities that can help promote a healthier lifestyle for all the family.

Irish rugby star and Laya Super Troopers ambassador Johnny Sexton commented at the launch of the TV series: “Healthy habits are formed when children are young, but they need to be introduced in a way that appeals to them and that can be easily integrated into the family routine. It has been so great to take part in Laya Super Troopers TV and contribute to a programme that also provides parents with support to help nurture the physical and mental wellbeing of their children. I’m really looking forward to tuning into the episodes with my own kids as I am sure they are going to love it.”

More startling results from the report show that almost a quarter of parents (24%) of children aged between 9 – 12 claim that they do not have adequate knowledge or understanding to ensure that their children are getting adequate levels of physical activity on a daily basis. Three quarters (76%) of parents of children claim they would like to see more of their child's current homework being focussed on learning about nutrition and physical and mental wellbeing rather than it all being academically focussed on core subjects such as English, Irish and Maths.

Sinéad Proos, Head of Health and Wellbeing at laya healthcare commented. “As the results of the research study show, parents and families are in need of support so that they can begin forming the habits that can lead to a healthy lifestyle. It is not just a matter of getting out for more physical activity, the mental and nutritional health of children is equally as important. What we have tried to do through Laya Super Troopers TV is meet this need head on by sharing simple and engaging ways for children to help manage their mental wellbeing, learn more about healthy eating, and build activity into their daily schedule. It is something that we are hugely proud of and that we are sure will positively impact the health and wellbeing of children across the country.”

Impact of COVID-19

84% of parents reported an increase in screen time for their children as a result of the pandemic – this figure rises to 88% amongst the parents of children who engage in less than an hour’s physical activity per day. Similarly, there has been an increase in time spent on social media, with 80% of parents saying their child has been spending more time on TikTok, Facebook or Instagram over the past 18 months.

Diet and nutrition is another area in which parents have felt the pressure of COVID-19 and have seen an impact on their children’s health. Almost a quarter of parents (23%) claim that the pandemic has resulted in a disimprovement in their children’s eating habits with 74% of parents seeing an increase in snacking, and 51% saying it was harder to say no to children when they asked for treats or less healthy food options.i 45% of parents also acknowledged that they were eating more takeaways as a family over the past 18 months.

Commenting at the launch of Super Troopers, Frank Feighan TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, said:

“Encouraging families to get involved with their children’s health and wellbeing is critically important for the future health of our nation. Laya Super Troopers is a clever way to get kids more active with their families and involving teachers in overseeing health homework and is a great way to ensure that health and wellbeing is a focus in homes and schools every day.

The programme also focuses on the three main strands of our work in Healthy Ireland; physical activity, emotional wellbeing and a healthy diet. It's great to see these healthy habits being encouraged at a young age and I’d encourage more schools to get involved and support making these habits last a lifetime; helping to bring about a Healthier Ireland for the adults of tomorrow."

Families all across the country can get involved by going to layasupertroopers.ie to access the free Laya Super Troopers TV series or to register their schools.

The first episode of Laya Super Troopers TV is live now at layasupertroopers.ie

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