Health-related behaviours and adolescent wellbeing

Behaviours begun in adolescence often track into adulthood and may have long-term effects on health and wellbeing. The importance of certain behaviours may be more salient for adolescent wellbeing, however research is still mixed. MiSoC’s Cara Booker led two projects to examine the relationship between health-related behaviours and wellbeing among adolescents.

The first project looked at smoking, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, junk food consumption, fast food consumption and sports participation in relation to adolescent happiness and socio-emotional difficulties. The findings show that those who smoked, drank more and participated in less sport are less happy and those who consumed less fast food and junk food and more fruit and vegetables were happier. Similar findings were observed for socio-emotional difficulties.

The second project focused on screen-based media, sport participation and wellbeing among the same population. Findings showed that in multivariate models, more hours spent chatting on social media was associated with both less happiness and increased socio-emotional problems. Additionally, TV watching for four or more hours was associated with decreased happiness while using game consoles for more than an hour a day was associated with increased socio-emotional difficulties.

The second project has led to further longitudinal investigation on the relationship between chatting on social media and wellbeing, which showed that high levels of social media use in early adolescence have implications for wellbeing in later adolescence, particularly for girls.