College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Girls skip breakfast ‘more often’

Girls are more likely to skip breakfast than boys, a survey of schoolchildren’s eating habits reveals.

Researchers at the University found that 15-year-old girls were almost 30 per cent more likely to miss the first meal of the day.

The study, funded by NHS Health Scotland, shows that pupils who eat breakfast everyday are more likely to rate their school performance as ‘good or very good’ and their health as ‘excellent or good’.

Eating habits

The survey also found that pupils who skip breakfast every day are more likely to consume daily sugary drinks and snack type foods, such as sweets and crisps.

Although 15-year-old boys are more likely to eat breakfast every day on school days, the study shows a gradual decrease in breakfast consumption with age.

A total of 58.0 per cent of boys and 44.8 per cent of girls consume breakfast at age 15, compared with 79.3 per cent and 75.3 per cent of 11-year-old boys and girls respectively.

Gender differences

But the study also found that girls were more likely to eat fruit and vegetables than boys - and that boys are more likely to eat chips, biscuits and white bread.

There are no gender differences in the consumption of sweets or crisps however, with more than a quarter of 11-15 year olds consuming these daily.

Researchers also found a link between the consumption of fruit or vegetables and participation in physical activity.

Among both boys and girls, those consuming fruit or vegetables once a day or more are more likely to meet the seven days a week physical activity guideline than those eating them less than once a day.

This paper highlights the importance of young people’s nutrition in relation to well-being, positive health behaviours and school performance. Gender and age differences are apparent in food choices, with young people already engaging in less healthy eating patterns appearing to be most at risk. “Interventions to promote breakfast consumption and fruit and vegetable intake should especially be targeted at adolescents in Scotland.

Researcher Jo KirbyUniversity of Edinburgh’s Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit

The survey was carried out in 300 schools across Scotland, questioned 6400 pupils from P7, S2 and S4.

It is part of a wider Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, which is an international survey by the World Health Organisation involving more than 40 countries in Europe and North America.

Photo credit: Jan William Geertsma