The pressure from schoolwork felt by Maltese 15-year-olds is the highest in Europe, according to a study by the World Health Organisation.

Eighty per cent of local girls reported feeling under pressure while the figure for boys was 62 per cent.

The study, known as the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Survey, is carried out every four years among 230,000 adolescents aged 11 to 15 years in 45 countries across Europe and North America. It is based on key indicators in the social, mental and health sectors.

The latest results, for 2018, show that the proportion of Maltese 15-year-olds citing pressure from schoolwork was slightly lower than in 2014, when the figures were 83 per cent for girls and 65 per cent for boys.

Iceland comes in a close second this year, with 80 per cent and 61 per cent for girls and boys respectively, followed by England at 74 and 62 per cent.

Survey carried out every four years among 230,000 adolescents

Finland, which in recent years has been considered by the Maltese educational authorities as a role model, also ranked high in eighth place.

The global trend confirmed that girls are more likely to feel pressured by schoolwork than boys. The overall average was 51 per cent for girls and 39 per cent for boys.

Students from families who are better off tend to report feeling more pressure. Another trend that emerged from this study is that school experience worsens with age in most countries.

On a positive note, more than half the adolescents reported high levels of support from their colleagues and teachers.

For the first time the report also delved into issues related to online communication. Maltese 15-year-old olds reported the highest levels of “problematic social media use” along with Albania, Ireland and Spain.

The term encompasses addiction-like symptoms such as loss of control over one’s use of social media at the expense of other important life domains including relationships with peers and parents, and hobbies.

A significant improvement was registered in the area of alcohol abuse, with a 13 per cent drop from the previous survey in the number of Maltese 15-year-old girls who reported having got drunk at least twice in their lives.

While in 2014, nearly a third (28 per cent) of girls had reported such incidents, this trend went gone down to 15 per cent in 2018.

However, there was no change among Maltese 15-year-old boys, where one in every four (26 per cent) admitted to having got drunk twice in their lives.

Globally, the average was 18 per cent for girls and 22 per cent for boys.

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