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Thursday, 10 September, 1998, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Children think they are healthy
Children are prepared to take a chance on junk food
A major study to be published next year will confirm that children can be blasť about their health.

The Health Education Authority surveyed 10,400 children aged 11 to16 about their attitudes to healthy living.

The findings will confirm the results of a survey published this week by the children's charity Barnardo's and pharmaceutical firm Glaxo Wellcome that children want to lead a healthy lifestyle, but in practice often fall short of their own aspirations.

HEA senior research Mary Hickman said: "They all think they are slightly healthier than they actually are.

"A lot have the attitude that they can eat what they like at a young age, as long as they are active, and quite a lot thought that healthy food was boring.

"They think it would be nice to eat healthy food, but feel that that they can probably get away without doing so at their age."

The HEA quizzed children about their attitudes to smoking, drinking alcohol, physical activity and nutrition.

One in five of those surveyed thought they were "very healthy", and three quarters thought they were "quite healthy".

But, in many cases, there was little in the youngsters' lifestyles to indicate that they took health very seriously.

Chocolate and crisps

One of the major findings was the amount of snack food, such as chocolate and crisps, eaten by children.

Approximately half of boys and a third of girls ate snack food at least three times a day.

Peer pressure pushes some youngsters into smoking
The majority of those surveyed were negative about smoking. However a third thought smoking had a calming effect, and one in three also thought that smoking was associated with rebellion.

Two thirds of those who smoked said that peer pressure was a factor in taking up the habit.

Ms Hickman said youngsters had a fairly positive attitude towards adopting a healthy lifestyle, but found the reality less appealing.

She cited one study where a school dinner menu was changed to include healthy alternatives on the request of the youngsters, only for the food to go uneaten.

The Barnardos and Glaxo Wellcome survey of children says many consider smoking "uncool" and want information about how to be healthier.

Over half want to see fruit and vegetables on fast food restaurant menus, but few actually ate healthily.

See also:

12 Jun 98 | Latest News
Anti-smoking campaign targets children
10 Sep 98 | Health
Kids want fitness - the easy way
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