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Mental health

Adolescence is a period of immense change and growth, with young people navigating new emotions, social dynamics, and life experiences. This crucial stage of development significantly impacts mental health, encompassing positive well-being, life satisfaction, and emotional regulation. Understanding the factors that influence mental health during these formative years is essential for supporting healthy development and preventing long-term problems.

This section of the HBSC study explores various dimensions of adolescent mental health, including self-rated health, self-efficacy, loneliness, and specific health complaints. By examining these factors, we can gain valuable insights into the mental well-being of young people and identify potential areas for intervention and support.

Select one of the indicators below to view data.

Key Findings

Volume 1

A focus on adolescent mental health & well-being

Cover of volume 1. HBSC study first international report volume on mental health and well-being.
  • Girls reported worse outcomes for mental health and well-being than boys across all outcomes included in the 2021/2022 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey.
  • An increasing gender difference with age was observed for all the indicators examined.
  • The proportion of adolescents who reported excellent health decreased with age. More boys than girls reported excellent health at ages 13 and 15 in nearly all countries and regions.
  • Life satisfaction and mental well-being were higher among boys than girls across all three age groups in most countries and regions.
  • Adolescents from more affluent families reported higher levels of life satisfaction and mental well-being across almost all countries and regions.
  • Life satisfaction and self-rated health declined between the HBSC surveys in 2017/2018 and 2021/2022. This trend was more pronounced among girls.
  • Girls consistently reported higher levels of loneliness than boys, except at age 11, where gender differences were found in six countries.
  • Almost twice as many 15-year-olds (13% for boys and 28% for girls) than 11-year-olds (8% for boys and 14% for girls) reported feeling lonely in the last year.
  • Girls reported more frequent health complaints than boys across all age groups.
  • The prevalence of multiple health complaints increased with age, particularly among girls. At age 15, two-thirds of girls reported experiencing multiple health complaints compared with just over a third of boys. This gender gap is the largest since 2013/2014.
  • One-third of adolescents (33%) experienced feeling nervous or irritable more than once a week in the last six months. One in four reported sleep difficulties (29%) and/or feeling low (25%). One in five (20%) reported having headaches more than once a week.
  • The prevalence of 13- and 15-year-olds feeling low, having headaches and experiencing dizziness was twice as high for girls than for boys in most countries and regions.
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Cite this data

Cite this report: Cosma A, Abdrakhmanova S, Taut D, Schrijvers K, Catunda C, Schnohr C. Focus on adolescent mental health and well-being in Europe, central Asia and Canada. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) International Report from the 2021/22 survey. Volume 1. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2023. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Youth Commentary

“I think there’s a lot of girls who put themselves down because they’re like ‘am I good enough? Am I strong enough? Am I capable of doing things?’ And they put themselves down and beat themselves up for nothing. They don’t appreciate themselves for who they are.”

Girl, Scotland

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