The results of a new European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) have been released, indicating that Ireland’s teenage boys are drinking and smoking less their counterparts in Europe; however online gambling by teenage boys has become a public health issue across the continent.

The study, which was conducted over four years and involved 96,000 school children from 35 countries, found that one in eight male school students aged 15 and 16 in Europe frequently gamble online.

The survey revealed that 23 percent of teenage boys reported gambling online for money in the past twelve months, compared to 5 percent of girls. As many as 12 percent of teenage boys report gambling online at least two to four times per month in the last twelve months. 23 percent reported gambling at least four times in the last week. This is despite underage gambling being illegal in many of the 35 countries.

The highest frequency of gambling was found in Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Montenegro and Slovenia, while the highest rates of regular gambling among teenage boys were in Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Norway and Finland. In the UK, online gambling among teens has risen from 31 percent in 2007 to 44 percent in 2015.

“Measures to prevent adolescents from developing problems associated with gambling, such as debt, psychological deficits and social disadvantages, are of high priority,” commented the authors of the ESPAD survey report.

“Research on factors associated with gaming indicates that early onset, opposite-sex friends and minimal parental mediation increase the risk for gaming. A high level of game-playing was related to bullying in boys and lower life satisfaction in girls.”

The researchers also mentioned the accumulating evidence that gambling, gaming and vast amounts of internet use can become as addictive as psychoactive substances.