How did the HBSC study begin?

When researchers from three countries, Norway, Finland and England [United Kingdom], realized they couldn’t compare data, because the way they were collected in countries was different, they came up with the idea of a cross-national study using the same questions, so that they could make proper comparisons.

This led to the first survey 1983/1984, with Austria, Denmark, England, Finland and Norway, and quite soon after that WHO became involved. They were early supporters of the study and decided to adopt it as a WHO collaborative project.

From the start, health was considered within a wider social context of the family, peer relationships, the school and socioeconomic environment. Health behaviours (such as physical activity, nutrition) and risk behaviour (such as smoking and drinking) have been there right from the beginning.

In the early 1990s, sexual health became a part of the survey because people realized it was a key element with older teenagers. Cannabis use came in, along with a wider range of alcoholic drinks, and other new areas were elaborated, such as computer use and electronic communication.

More recently the whole area of well-being and mental health has been extended to comprise things like life satisfaction. Similarly, the socioeconomic questions have been extended and elaborated, while the basic ideas have been retained.

Today, 43 countries and regions participate.