Objective To determine the modifiable factors influencing well-being in boys and girls by accounting for deprivation, ethnicity and clustering within local authorities.
Methods We used data from a very large nationally representative survey, the What About Youth study involving 120 115 adolescents aged 15 years. Our outcome measure of mental well-being was the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS). Potential explanatory factors included substance abuse, screen time, eating habits, reading, bullying, sleeping pattern, physical activity and area-level deprivation. We ran unadjusted and adjusted multilevel models for each explanatory factor, after adjusting for ethnicity, deprivation and including a random effect for the local authority.
Results Boys had a higher overall mean WEMWBS score than girls (p<0.0001). In the adjusted model, each of multiple risk behaviours, eating habits, sleep, bullying, physical activity, screen-time and reading were independently associated with mental well-being in both boy and girls (p<0.0001 for both). Sleep and eating behaviours had a stronger association in both sexes than bullying, physical activity and screen time. Young people from black ethnic groups had significantly higher well-being in both sexes. Deprivation was not associated with well-being among boys but was among girls.
Conclusion The largest contributors to adolescent well-being appear to be sleep, eating behaviours and bullying when considered in a multivariable framework. While adolescents from black ethnic groups had higher overall well-being scores, area deprivation did not affect male well-being but had a small effect on female well-being. Future longitudinal studies and health policies need to consider a range of behavioural factors to drive improvements in adolescent well-being.
- adolescent health
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Contributors AG and SD led the writing of the study and undertook the analyses. RV conceptualised the project, contributed to the ideas underlying the article, contributed to writing and revision of the article.
Funding This report is an independent research commissioned and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme.
Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research, the Department of Health or its arm’s length bodies and other Government Departments.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Ethics approval The National Children’s Bureau carried out a detailed ethical review of the original study, but it was not required for this secondary data analysis.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Presented at Preliminary findings of this paper were presented at the Adolescent Lives and Wellbeing 2017 Conference organised by University College London.
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