Most Swedish school children report their health as good, but mental health is a concern

Although most children in Sweden rate their health as good, the Swedish findings from the WHO collaborative cross-national Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study 2013/14 show some disturbing results regarding mental health. Many girls report having psychosomatic symptoms, and almost every fifth girl has tried to lose weight.

The Swedish Public Health Agency's report Schoolchildren's health habits in Sweden 2013/14 shows improvements in several areas of child and adolescent health;  the proportion of young people who have been drunk is the lowest in 30 years, fewer smoke or take snuff, more eat vegetables daily, and the proportion of adolescents who eat candy or drink soda every day has decreased. Nevertheless, the study also shows some disturbing results:

  • The proportion of 15-year-old girls who experience at least two mental and / or physical symptoms such as stomach pains or trouble sleeping more than once a week continues to increase, and is now 57 % the highest since the study began.
  • Young women's body image has also deteriorated.  Half of the 13- and 15-year-old girls think they are too fat. 
  • Almost one in five 13-year-old girls, (18 %) say they have tried to lose weight, an increase over the previous poll – this is of concern as a strong negative body image is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems later in life.

Sweden has participated in the WHO collaborative cross-national Health Behaviour of School-aged Children study (HBSC) since 1985/86.