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Sustainable lifestyle and health from a public health perspective

New generations of youth feel worse than in the past: a study on determinants and the stability of youth mental health problems.

Adolescents´ mental health has become a matter of concern in the last few years. The Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten, 2018a), and other studies outside Sweden, have recently reported a constant and progressive increase of youth mental health problems in the last three decades, especially in the Nordic countries. Why has this increase occurred? Does it persist into adulthood? To date there is not a clear answer to these questions. This project aims to contribute to this knowledge.

Project manager at MDH

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Youth mental health is an important asset for modern societies. Nevertheless, recent reports from Sweden, but also other countries, have highlighted the fact that youth, especially girls, feel worse than in the past and that a constant and progressive deterioration of youth mental health in the last three decades has occurred. However, the reason for this decline is largely unknown. Moreover, we do not know if youth mental health problems persist after the transition to adulthood. This project aims at filling these gaps. We will investigate the role of a range of lifestyle and individual factors (i.e. physical activity, sleep habits, use of media, school-related factors), interpersonal factors (i.e. relations with peers, parents and teachers), and of some individual characteristics (i.e. gender, Socio-Economic Status) on the increase of youth mental health problems, i.e. depressive and psychosomatic symptoms.

Moreover, we will investigate whether this increase persists after the transition to adulthood and whether it is associated with a subsequent increase in internalising disorders in young adulthood. Finally, we will explore differences due to gender and SES. Our findings may help to identify crucial and appropriate ingredients when designing and improving interventions to improve youth mental health.


Project objectives

The specific project objectives are the following:

  1. to investigate the factors that are associated with the increase of youth mental health problems, i.e. depressive symptoms and psychosomatic symptoms.
  2. to investigate the developmental trajectories of adolescents that show high levels of mental health problems from adolescence to early adulthood.

This research relates to the following sustainable development goals

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