Exploring the reported worsening of mental wellbeing among adolescent girls in Scotland

Findings from a rapid literature review exploring trends in adolescent wellbeing in Scotland and contributing factors.

Appendix: Aims, Scope and Methods


The aims of this project were to:

  • Investigate results from national surveys to explore whether the reported worsening of mental wellbeing in adolescent girls in Scotland reflects a genuine trend.
  • Explore whether a similar trend is seen in the UK and beyond.
  • Review literature on the potential factors contributing to the worsening of mental wellbeing of adolescent girls in Scotland.
  • Make recommendations for future survey questions.

Scope and Methods

This project was undertaken between May and July 2018, by a Scottish Government Intern.

The research investigated results from three population surveys that collect data on adolescent mental health and wellbeing in Scotland: the Scottish Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS), Health Behaviours In School-aged Children (HBSC) and the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS). The table below provides further information on these surveys:

Main National Surveys with data on young people’s wellbeing in Scotland




Measures Used


Scottish Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey

Every 2 years

Latest Wave 2015

S2 and S4 Pupils at Scottish High Schools

  • SDQ


Health Behaviours in School-aged Children

Every 4 years

Latest Wave 2014

P7, S2 and S4 pupils in Scottish schools.

  • Catrill Ladder
  • Kidscreen Quality of Life Scale
  • Perceived Stress Scale
  • Other standardised questions.


Scottish Health Survey


Latest Wave 2016

Representative sample of Scottish households, (includes children aged 0-15)

  • SDQ (ages 4-12, parent completion)
  • WEMWBS (ages 13-15, self-completion)

The research also involved a rapid review of published literature to explore possible factors contributing to recent trends in adolescent mental wellbeing. The databases searched were: IDOX, The Knowledge Network, The British Library, Knowledge and Evidence, ProQuest, Google Advanced and Google Scholar.

Search terms included “mental health”, “mental wellbeing”, “young people”, “teenagers”, “school-aged children”, “stress”, “anxiety”, “depression”, “adolescents”, “Scotland” and “United Kingdom”. Searches were limited to the English language and the previous five years (2013-2018). The researcher also reviewed references from key reports for further relevant evidence and asked stakeholders if they were aware of relevant literature or data sources.

Within the project timescales it was not possible to review all factors relating to the apparent decline in young people’s wellbeing. After an initial scoping stage, it was decided to focus on a select number of factors (mobile technologies, social media use and sleep; body image; and school pressure), where there was good quality data available at Scotland level, clear gender differences and indications of change in recent years. The contribution of body image to poor mental wellbeing was also included as there was a commitment in Scotland’s Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery plan to undertake research in this area (Scottish Government, 2018).

All reports included in the review were assessed and considered to be of good quality, based on the methodology, sample size and measures used. This was not, however, a systematic review of the data and only select bibliographic databases were included. The results cannot, therefore, be regarded as comprehensive.

The draft project report was reviewed by Scottish Government analysts and key findings are presented in this summary document.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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