Croatian pupils are more prone to risk behaviour, in particular smoking and alcohol use, and unhealthy eating habits than most of their peers in other countries, according to the latest survey on the health behaviour of school-aged children conducted in 42 countries across the world.

Although smoking and alcohol use among pupils has dropped slightly compared with the previous years, Croatia is not following the trends observed in other countries where this drop has been more significant, it was said at the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) where the results of the survey were presented earlier this week.

Croatia has regularly participated in the survey since 2002, and the latest one was carried out in 2014, covering 5,741 pupils aged 11, 13 and 15.

The results show that smoking is more prevalent among boys, which led the authors of the survey to conclude that the increasing trend of smoking among girls, observed in the previous years, has been reversed. Although smoking among school-aged children has dropped slightly in recent years, Croatia is still among countries with the highest prevalence of smoking among pupils - third when it comes to children aged 15 and sixth when it comes to children aged 13 and younger.

In Croatia, alcohol use is also more prevalent among boys, and the survey shows that some modest progress has been made towards less alcohol consumption, especially when it comes to alcohol abuse at an early age (13 years and younger). Still, Croatia is among the first three countries with the highest incidence of alcohol abuse among pupils and among the first six countries where pupils drink alcohol regularly on a weekly basis.

On most indicators of health and well-being among pupils, the situation in Croatia is similar to most other countries, and on some indicators Croatia is among the first ten or so countries with the most favourable situation.

Compared with the 2002 survey, a slight increase in the trend of life satisfaction was observed, while as far as subjective health and well-being is concerned, the most vulnerable were girls aged 15, among whom 21% said they were not satisfied with their life and 28% described their health as poor.

It has been observed that eating habits deteriorate in older age groups, that fewer children have breakfast regularly and that more drink sugar-sweetened beverages. In Croatia, 52% of 15-year-old boys have breakfast every day, as against 44% girls, and fewer than 30% of children eat fruit every day. However, 26% of boys and 24% of girls drink sugar-sweetened beverages on a daily basis.

The survey shows that Croatia is among the top ten countries with the highest level of physical activity among pupils, which decreases in older age groups. At age 15 only 25% of boys and 12% of girls are physically active for an hour or more daily, which is recommended at this age.

As regards body weight, there are more overweight boys than girls, and Croatia ranks 11th with regard to overweight pupils aged 11. At the time of the survey, 12% of 11-year-old girls, 20% of 13-year-old girls and 24% of 15-year-old girls were on a diet. By comparison, 15.6% of 15-year-old girls were on a diet in 2002.

Since 2002 no significant changes have been recorded in respect of peer violence among boys in Croatia, but among girls aged 15 the frequency of violence in 2014 was double that in 2010. Only four countries recorded fewer victims of peer violence among children aged 11 and younger than Croatia.

As for marijuana use, it is more frequent among boys, and a slight decline in marijuana use has been observed among girls. Croatia is among the top ten countries with the highest incidence of marijuana use among school-aged children.

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