Publication - Research and analysis

Secondary school-aged pupils in Scotland - mental wellbeing, relationships and social media: report

Published: 10 Dec 2021

This report outlines findings from a survey of 1,361 pupils from 50 secondary local authority schools in Scotland. The pupils completed the survey between 8th February and 2nd April 2021, and responded to questions about their mental wellbeing, relationships and social media use.

Secondary school-aged pupils in Scotland - mental wellbeing, relationships and social media: report
Executive summary

Executive summary

Background

This report outlines findings from Ipsos MORI's Young People in Scotland (YPIS) 2021 survey. In total, 1,361 pupils from 50 secondary local authority schools in Scotland (S1 to S6) completed the survey between 8th February and 2nd April 2021.

Key findings

Overall findings for the whole sample are as follows:

  • The mean mental wellbeing score for the whole sample was 44.9, which is at the lower end of a range of scores (45-59) used to indicate average mental wellbeing. When compared with mean scores from previous surveys, pupils appeared to report poorer mental wellbeing in early 2021 than before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as the current and previous surveys differ in methodology, the observed difference in scores should be treated with caution.
  • Pupils were most likely to report 'Sometimes' feeling lonely (42%), with the remainder more likely to report 'Hardly ever or never' feeling lonely (33%) than 'Often' (20%).
  • Over half (55%) of the pupils felt optimistic.
  • On average, the pupils reported having 7.5 hours of sleep on the night before completing the survey.
  • About three-quarters of participants felt that they had family (74%) and/or friends (74%) to whom they could talk about their problems, and enjoyed spending time with their family (78%).
  • 13% of the sample were found to show signs of problematic social media use, which was determined if a participant agreed with five or more statements (out of nine) about their social media use.
  • Over half (55%) of the pupils felt that social media made them feel closer to their friends.

Key findings relating to pupils with different demographic characteristics are as follows:

  • Gender identity. Compared with male pupils, female pupils reported poorer mental wellbeing, reported feeling lonely more often, and were less likely to report feeling optimistic. Female pupils were also less likely to report having family to talk to about their problems, and were more likely to have problematic social media use. Additionally, female pupils were more likely to report that social media made them feel closer to their friends.
  • School year. Compared with younger pupils, older pupils reported poorer mental wellbeing and feeling lonely more often, and were less likely to report having family to talk to about their problems.
  • Physical or mental health condition. Compared with pupils without a physical or mental health condition, pupils with such a condition reported poorer mental wellbeing, feeling lonely more often and getting less sleep, and were less likely to report feeling optimistic. Pupils with a condition were also less likely to report having family with whom they talked about their problems, or enjoyed spending time.
  • Urban/Rural. Pupils living in rural settings were less likely to report having friends to whom they could talk about their problems than pupils living in urban settings.
  • Caring responsibilities. Pupils with caring responsibilities were more likely to have problematic social media use than pupils without such responsibilities.
  • No statistically significant differences were found between pupils falling in different bands of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.
  • Due to small sample sizes, it was not possible to undertake analyses that included people who identified their gender in a way other than female or male, or to compare pupils from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Additionally, the survey did not include measures of other factors that are known to influence children and young people's mental wellbeing (e.g., receiving additional learning support, sexual orientation, experience of violence and abuse).

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot