Mental health and wellbeing among adolescents in Scotland: profile and trends

Mental Health and Wellbeing among Adolescents in Scotland looks at trends and key associations for the mental health of boys and girls aged 13 and 15. The report found that friendships and a positive experience of school are the two things most closely aligned with mental wellbeing. Other factors include playing sport at least once a week, belonging to a club, expecting to go to university and reading books. Deprivation and poorer physical health both correlate with lower mental wellbeing.

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6 Conclusions

  • In the last three years, there has been a marked change in mental health and wellbeing among pupils. While some aspects have improved (conduct problems, pro-social behaviour) or remained largely the same over time (hyperactivity, mental wellbeing), others have worsened (emotional problems and peer problems).
  • One of the starkest changes is the extent to which mental health and wellbeing has changed among 15 year old girls, particularly in terms of their emotional wellbeing. In 2010, 28% of 15 year olds girls had a borderline or abnormal emotional problems score. This increased to 41% in 2013.
  • Among those components of mental health and wellbeing that have deteriorated, the main change has been between 2010 and 2013, rather than a gradual effect over time.
  • Different aspects of mental health and wellbeing affected girls and boys differently - girls were more likely to have problems with emotion or hyperactivity, whereas boys were more likely to have problems with conduct, peers or pro-social behaviour.
  • When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, the two most closely aligned factors are pupils' relationships with friends and their experience of school. This was confirmed by the logistic regression analysis.
  • The number and nature of a pupil's friendships had the strongest links to mental health and wellbeing - poorer mental health and wellbeing was associated with having fewer friends and having mostly older friends.
  • Engagement with school was key to good mental health and wellbeing - those that disliked school, felt pressured by the amount of work they had, truanted on multiple occasions or had been excluded were all more likely to have borderline or abnormal SDQ scores and lower mental health and wellbeing.
  • Physical wellbeing was linked to mental health and wellbeing - those who had a limiting illness or disability reported poorer mental health and wellbeing than those that did not - particularly in relation to emotional problems.
  • A number of activities appeared to have a protective effect against poor mental health and wellbeing (although causal links are likely to be complex). Expecting to go to university, belonging to a group or club and seeing friends, doing a hobby, reading books or playing a sport at least weekly were associated with better mental health and wellbeing. For girls, in particular, playing sport on a weekly basis was strongly related to lower levels of emotional and behavioural problems.


Email: Iain MacAllister

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