New insights into Scottish adolescents’ health and lifestyle trends were unveiled in HBSC Scotland’s latest national report. The 2021/22 survey results highlight key patterns in areas such as general health, mental well-being, eating habits, physical activity, electronic media usage, substance use, sexual health, experiences at school, bullying incidents, and familial `and peer relationships.

Since 1990 the HBSC survey in Scotland has played a crucial role in assessing adolescent health. With the world grappling with the ongoing repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 survey placed a particular emphasis on mental health and enables a comparison of adolescent health and well-being before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some key findings:

  • Approximately 23% of adolescents rated their health as ‘excellent’, with 15-year-old girls the least likely to report this (13%). Boys’ reports of ‘excellent’ health increased from 22% in 2018 to 27% in 2022.
  • Nearly half (49%) of young people reported experiencing multiple health complaints weekly, with prevalence being higher in girls aged 13 and 15.
  • Just over a quarter (27%) of young people reported feeling very happy with their life, with boys more likely to report this than girls (34% versus 21%). For girls, this marked the lowest prevalence of feeling very happy since 1994.
  • Overall, 42% of young people reported feeling confident always or often. In all age groups, boys were more likely to report this than girls. The year 2022 saw the lowest levels of confidence in 28 years for both boys and girls.
  • Over a third (35%) of young people were classified as having low mood or at risk of depression.
  • Around a third (32%) of young people reported anxiety, with higher levels among girls than boys at ages 13 and 15.
  • Less than a quarter (23%) of adolescents achieved 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily. The MVPA level has increased since 2018, particularly for boys (19% to 28%).
  • The vast majority (85%) of adolescents reported keeping their smartphone in their bedroom at night, and 73% also reported having a television in their bedroom.
  • Almost one in seven (14%) adolescents reported problematic social media use. Gender differences were observed, with girls more likely to report problematic social media use than boys (20% versus 8%).