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20% of 17-18 years old are overweight and 8% are obese

New research shows 20 per cent of 17 to 18 year olds are overweight and a further 8 per cent are obese.

That is according to the latest Growing Up in Ireland survey, which followed 6,000 children since they were nine.

It found most 17 and 18 year olds have good relationships with their parents, are in good health and ambitious for their futures.

Dr Eoin McNamara, the report’s lead author, says it also found rates of being overweight and obesity were higher among women.

"It was always the case for us that young woman were reporting higher levels of being overweight or obese. One of the key predictors of obesity would be physical activity levels.

"What we also see is a similar disparity there and young men are more active than woman. We have explored that in more detail by asking them what they like to do in their free time.

"What we found was that young men like doing active pursuits such as going to the gym or playing team or individual sports."

Positive findings

In what was a wide ranging survey, Mr McNamara said there were plenty of positive findings in the latest round of interviews.

The vast majority of young people were positive about their education, health and relationships with their teachers.

He said 80 per cent of Irish parents expect their children to go on to third-level education , with similarly high expectations among the young people themselves.

He said nearly 30 per cent of those involved said they had taken on some form of volunteering work in the last year.

“Overall, that is a really positive finding, it points towards good social engagement amongst these young people,” he said.

“Particularly in light of the fact they are at a stage, at age 17 and 18, where they have a lot of exam pressures preparing for the Leaving Cert.

“So, the idea that we a have a sizable proportion of them volunteering is really positive and they are putting in quite a good few hours with that as well.”