Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Scotland Study
For over 30 years the Scottish HBSC study has investigated the health and well-being of school children in Scotland and the social contexts in which they are growing up. The HBSC survey is conducted every four years and collects data from Primary 7, Secondary 2 and Secondary 4 pupils in Scotland. The study is funded by NHS Health Scotland, with whom we work closely to develop the survey and ensure that the data collected is as useful as possible.
The Scottish HBSC study is part of a larger cross-national study which is conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe. The study currently covers 50 countries and regions in Europe and North America. For more information on the international HBSC study please visit the International HBSC website (www.hbsc.org).
The study is based at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit (SPHSU), University of Glasgow and undertaken in collaboration with the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews.
The University of Glasgow also hosts the International Coordinating Centre (ICC) for the HBSC study and research network. Dr Jo Inchley is the Principal Investigator for the Scottish HBSC study as well as the elected International Coordinator of the study.
Data are collected through school-based surveys in each country, using the HBSC international standard questionnaire. The target population of the study is young people attending school, aged 11, 13 and 15 years. Each participating country samples around 1500-2000 young people in each age group.
How is HBSC data collected?
In Scotland, data collection takes place following the necessary ethical approvals and consent from local authorities, schools, parents and pupils. Pupils are asked to complete an anonymous paper-based survey in the classroom under exam conditions, which takes on average 40 minutes.
Ethical approval for the 2018 HBSC Scotland survey was granted by the University of St Andrews Teaching and Research Ethics Committee.
The HBSC survey covers a wide range of health and wellbeing topics including physical activity, eating behaviours, oral health, smoking, alcohol consumption, self-reported health and symptoms, life satisfaction, spirituality, mental wellbeing, bullying, fighting, injuries, family life, school environment, electronic media use and peer relationships. Additional questions are included for the older age groups on cannabis use (13 and 15-year olds only) and sexual health (15-year olds only).
How are HBSC data used?
The data collected by HBSC are used to provide population-level statistics; none of the results from the study can be used to identify individuals. These statistics are used to inform the development of policies and programmes tailored to the needs of young people at local, national and international levels.
“HBSC provides the best tool for investigating why some health-related trends in children and young people are increasing and other trends decreasing by facilitating comparisons internationally”
Dr Gerry McCartney, Public Health Consultant and Head of Public Health Observatory Division; NHS Health Scotland
“The [HBSC International] report provides a strong evidence base to support national and international efforts to strengthen initiatives that affect young people’s health and well-being. All government departments can use it to reflect health needs in their policies to define and achieve primary targets and to promote the precious resource that is young people’s health.”
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe