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HEALTH BEHAVIOUR IN SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION COLLABORATIVE CROSS-NATIONAL SURVEY

 

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World Mental Health Day 2018

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. In 2018 the theme for World Mental Health Day is young people.

Mental health in adolescence

Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of life when many changes occur, for example going through puberty, changing schools, and starting university or employment. For many, these are exciting times. However, they can also be times of stress and apprehension. In some cases, these feelings can lead to mental health problems, with damaging effects on young people’s social, intellectual and emotional development.

Mental health and well-being during adolescence are strongly influenced by life experiences and relationships. Key protective factors include a sense of parent and family connectedness, with social support supplied by at least one caring adult. Good family communication and supportive peers help young people to adjust to new situations and cope with stressful life events. Family structure also counts: children and young people who live with parents express higher life satisfaction than those living with other relatives, non-relatives or guardians.

Factors associated with poor mental health and well-being include bullying, lack of acceptance by peers and lack of support from parents and teachers. Frequent or sustained stress leads to emotional and physiological strain, which in turn has an effect on the development of frequent health complaints such as headaches, abdominal pain and backache. In contrast, positive school experiences has been identified as a protective factor against the development of frequent health complaints.

Data from the HBSC study

The results below come from ‘Growing up unequal: gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health and well-being’. This report presents data from the 2013/14 HBSC survey, and focuses on the effect of gender and socioeconomic differences on the way young people grow and develop in 42 countries and regions across Europe and North America.

Age 

In general, mental well-being declines as young people move through adolescence. Differences emerge between ages 11 and 15, with 15-year-olds reporting: 

  • lower levels of life satisfaction,

  • more regular sleep difficulties,

  • worse perceived health,

  • more pressure from school work,

  • higher rates of regularly feeling low and feeling nervous, and

  • more frequent multiple health complaints.

These findings confirm that the psychosocial dimension of health is very important in the second decade of life, when adolescents experience many physical, social, psychological and cognitive changes in their transition to adulthood.

Gender

Clear gender differences exist, with girls reporting:

  • lower levels of life satisfaction,

  • more regular sleep difficulties,

  • worse perceived health,

  • more pressure from school work,

  • higher rates of regularly feeling low and feeling nervous, and

  • more frequent multiple health complaints.

This gender gap emerges with 13-year-olds and increases dramatically with age. By the age of 15, one in five girls reports her health as fair or poor and one in two experience multiple health complaints more than once a week. Concerted efforts need to be made to address these stark gender differences.

Family affluence

Young people from less-affluent households consistently report lower life satisfaction, more frequent multiple health complaints and higher levels of perceived fair or poor health.

World Mental Health Day 2018

Fortunately, there is a growing recognition of the importance of helping young people build mental resilience, in order to cope with the challenges of today’s world. Evidence is growing that promoting and protecting adolescent health brings benefits not just to adolescents’ health, both in the short- and the long-term, but also to economies and society, with healthy young adults able to make greater contributions to the workforce, their families and communities and society as a whole.

Investment by governments and the involvement of the social, health and education sectors in comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based programmes for the mental health of young people is essential. This investment should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adolescents and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students. This is the focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day.

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item 5108
[10-10-2018 to 23-04-2020]

 


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