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Half of kids here aged seven have long-term conditions

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 09/12/2015

Half of seven-year-olds in Northern Ireland have a longstanding health condition, with asthma and eczema being the most common, a new report has revealed.

The research estimates that some 53.2% of seven-year-old children here have one or more conditions.

More than one in five has asthma (22.9%) and one in four (26%) has eczema, it suggested.

The report published by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) found that this was followed by sight (16.8%) and hearing (8.3%) problems.

The report also estimated that boys were almost twice as likely as girls to experience asthma or asthma-like symptoms.

The findings are based on analysis of the latest results of the Northern Ireland Millennium Cohort Study, which followed the health of 1,370 seven-year-olds and their families.

This research also showed that if a parent had a long-standing condition, there was a higher risk of their child having a condition.

Children whose mother smoked during pregnancy were 1.8 times more likely to have asthma/asthma symptoms.

Key findings included:

• 19.1% were reported as currently experiencing a long-standing illness or disability.

• 26.1% were reported as having eczema.

• 22.9% were reported as having asthma.

• 16.8% were reported as having a sight problem.

• 8.3% were reported as having a hearing problem.

IPH director of research Professor Kevin Balanda said: "We are increasingly aware of the lifelong benefits of a healthy start in life, and these findings show it is important to address the underlying causes of these conditions to enable more children to have a healthy start."

The report's lead author, Lorraine Fahy of the IPH, added: "This research indicated that having a primary carer with a long-standing condition was linked to a higher risk of a child having a condition. Maternal smoking during pregnancy was also linked to higher prevalence of asthma. Socio-economic factors also played a role, as well as differences in educational attainment of the primary carer."

The report called for more uniformed means of measuring children's health conditions.

22.9%

The percentage of seven-year-olds who suffer from asthma

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