Social determinants of health and well-being among young people

memories [explored #50] - photo by Flickr user Manu✰As well as giving us information about substance use by young people the Health Behaviours in School Aged Children survey also gives some very helpful insight into the ’causes of the causes’, to borrow a phrase.

Risk and Protective Factors

These include reflections from young people about how easy it is to talk to their mothers and fathers, their friendships and how often they spend time with them, whether they have a positive relationship with school, and how often they need medical attention as a result of injuries.

As Claire suggested in her piece about parental monitoring having a positive relationship are seen as critical protective factor.  These findings suggest that fathers are seen as less approachable than mothers, and that Scottish parents are less likely to be seen as easy to talk to.

She also noted that knowing where our children are can also protect them from harms.  The WHO survey suggests that young people from the UK spend more time with their friends in the evening than their Western European counterparts, with the exception of the Spanish.

Perhaps just as importantly, it would appear that our children are rapidly turned off school and are amongst the least likely in Europe to describe themselves as enjoying school, and the most likely to describe themselves as feeling pressured by schoolwork.

The survey also looks at the proportions who eat breakfast – not doing so being associated with smoking and alcohol use – and found that, by the time our children are 15 years old, more than 1 in 3 boys and 1 in 2 girls don’t eat breakfast every school day.

Health Behaviour in School Aged Children

Taking The World By Storm - photo by Flickr user JD Hancock
The World Health Organisation have just published the findings from the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children survey, which focuses on the social determinants of health and well-being among young people, including their drug and alcohol use.

The survey has comparable data from young people in England, Wales and Scotland as well as from across Europe.

As you’ll see there are a number of policy reflections that the authors have which are useful collateral for us.


The report says:

School-based intervention programmes focusing specifically  on alcohol use and targeting adolescents and their parents  have considerable effects. Generic, psychosocial and  developmental, school-based prevention programmes  focusing on life skills and a healthy lifestyle in general are  also effective and could be considered as policy and  practice options.

They also report that family interventions are effective in delaying the onset of drinking and reducing the frequency of drinking.


As with alcohol the report is clear that school based prevention programmes can be effective:

Interventions in schools that focus on  increasing drug knowledge, decision-making  skills, self-esteem and resistance to peer  pressure effectively reduce cannabis use.

They also say that Motivational Interviewing has been effective in working with young people who have started to use cannabis.