Subjective wellbeing of 13 and 15-year-old boys and girls in Scotland and the health promoting school

K. A. Levin, C. Currie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The emotional wellbeing of children and adolescents is a priority area for the Scottish Executive. Previous research has shown that the subjective wellbeing of schoolchildren in Scotland has improved since 1994. The Scottish Executive set a target in 2003 that every school should be a health promoting school (HPS) by 2007, with an overall emphasis on creating an ethos of “care, respect, participation, responsibility and fairness for all”.

Objective: The aim of this study is to calculate the school effects of subjective wellbeing for boys and girls and examine the impact of HPS status on wellbeing.

Methods: Data from the 2006 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey were modelled using multilevel binomial modelling for boys and girls, with six subjective wellbeing outcomes, adjusting for age, year, family affluence, family structure, mother–child relations, father–child relations and peer relations. School-level variance was examined. HPS status was then added to the models as an explanatory variable.

Results: Among boys, family structure, family affluence, paternal absence and communication with parents are associated with lower levels of subjective wellbeing. There are, however, no school effects for any measure of subjective wellbeing. Among girls, family affluence, parental absence, communication with mother, father and best friend are all associated with lower levels of subjective wellbeing. In addition, school effects were found for measures of life satisfaction, happiness, multiple health complaints, helplessness and feeling left out. After adjusting for individual factors, for girls, the odds of “never feeling left out” in a HPS are 1.94 (95% CI 1.30 to 2.89) those of being in a school with no HPS status. The odds of “never feeling helpless” in a HPS are 1.62 (95% CI 1.18 to 2.21) those of a school with no HPS status. However, the odds of excellent perceived health are lower for girls in a HPS (odds ratio 0.67; 0.28 to 0.99). HPS status does not explain the school effects of happiness and life satisfaction.

Conclusion: Subjective wellbeing is known to be lower among girls than boys. After adjustment for individual factors, HPS status is associated with lower rates of helplessness and feeling left out among girls, but poorer perceived health. This suggests that while achieving an atmosphere of inclusion in schools, the HPS may also have increased awareness of health among girls, but may not have had much influence on life satisfaction and happiness.
Original languageEnglish
Article number046
Pages (from-to)A17-A17
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


  • emotional wellbeing
  • subjective wellbeing
  • childen
  • Scottish Executive
  • Scottish Government
  • health promoting school
  • HPS


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