Social Sciences

Health behaviour in school-aged children (HBSC) – a WHO collaborative study in 50 countries

For over 30 years, the HBSC study has been assessing the health behaviours of young people in 50 countries. With this data base it is possible to identify and respond to health risks and inequalities among young people. This is particularly relevant because health problems that arise during this critical stage of life can have an impact even in later life.

Youth as a formative period

The aim of HBSC is to understand health and health behaviours of young people in a social context and to derive recommendations for action from this knowledge. This is relevant because health problems have an immediate impact on the well-being of young people. Furthermore, risky health behaviours during youth have a negative impact on future health as childhood and adolescence is a period of time when important foundations are being laid. For example, people who smoke as a teenager are also likely to do so as an adult. The same applies to other behaviours such as alcohol consumption, sugar consumption and exercise. These behavioural patterns are in turn significantly affected by psychological factors and the social environment of young people, i.e. parents, friends and school.

HBSC – an international study in collaboration with WHO

Since 1999, Luxembourg has been one of 50 countries participating in the HBSC study. In each of the subsequent five survey rounds, around 10,000 pupils aged between 11 and 18 have been asked about their health. The questions cover a wide range of topics and a large proportion of the questions are asked every four years in all participating countries. This allows both comparisons over time and international comparisons. Since 2016, the University of Luxembourg has been responsible for the study which is conducted jointly with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.

Health in its social context

The published reports, factsheets and articles, and those yet to be issued, cover a wide range of topics and highlight the relevance of the social context to health. The recently-published National HBSC Report shows that health and health behaviours are closely linked with gender, family income and type of school attended. The imminent Report on suicidal behaviour of adolescents explores important risk factors for suicidal behaviour such as psychosomatic health complaints, low life satisfaction, bullying and sexual abuse. This report is the basis for the article currently under review, Suicide prevention: using the number of health complaints as an indirect alternative for screening suicidal adolescents, which proposes the use of a non-clinical measure for screening suicidal ideation and behaviour.

The 2018 report on the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children international survey has just been published. The report highlights developments prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the current health crisis, it is essential to have evidence-based information concerning adolescents’ perceptions and behaviour with regards to their health. The results of the report help identify groups of at-risk children and adolescents with limited individual and social resources to deal with difficult situations.

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