Psychological distress among children and adolescents. Do individual or contextual factors matter? Authors Meilstrup C, Ersbøll AK, Nielsen L, Due P, Holstein BE Background A large minority of children and adolescents suffer from mental distress and it is important to identify contributing factors. Most research focus on individual level factors and little research concern contextual level factors. The objective of this presentation is to identify individual level and school level factors associated with mental distress. Methods We used the Danish HBSC study 2010 including 11, 13 and 15 year old students in a random sample of schools, n=4922. Students answered the standardized HBSC questionnaire including several items about their mental health and the psychosocial school environment. Further, school-leaders answered a questionnaire on school environment. We applied multilevel analyses to identify and quantify explanatory factors at three levels, individuals nested in classes nested in schools. Results Large variations in psychological complaints from one school to another were found. One example is that the proportion of students with at daily experience of emotional complaints varied between 7% and 32% across schools. Individual level variables such as low socio-economic position and family composition explained much of the variation across schools. Still, class level variables also contributed to this variation. In classes where many students reported that the class-mates doesn´t like being together, there was a high prevalence of psychological complaints (P=0.0076). This finding suggests contextual effects on psychological complaints. Conclusion and implications for research Although we expected individual level factors to explain much of the variation in psychological complaints between schools (compositional effects), this study suggest that contextual factors are important to take into account in the research on psychological complaints among children and adolescents. This analytical model presents a way for future studies about contextual influences on psychological complaints.
Main Research Area:
The Seventh World Conference on the promotion of Mental Health and the prevention of mental and behavioral disorders, 2012