7.1 General context
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Ungdata, a cross national collection scheme designed to conduct young people surveys at the municipal level, and which is financed through the national budget, is regarded as the most comprehensive source of information on adolescent health and well-being at the municipal and national levels. Data is used in municipal planning and developmental work related to public health and preventive measures aimed at young people.
Ungdata covers various aspects of young people's lives such as relationship with parents and friends, leisure activities, health issues, local environment, well-being, and school issues. The surveys also include questions about tobacco and drug use, and participation in various forms of antisocial behaviour such as violence and bullying.
Data for 2019 show that in general, young people in Norway are doing well. Most young people enjoy the life they live. They are happy with their parents, with the school they attend, and with the local community in which they live. Nine out of ten young people have close friends. Most have an active free time where social media, computer games, exercise and sports, organized leisure activities, schoolwork and being with friends, characterize everyday life. The majority report good physical and mental health, and most are optimistic about their own future. The report also shows that there are systematic differences related to how young people with different social backgrounds feel and what they do in their free time. On most indicators, young people who grow up in families with high socio-economic status and many resources come out better compared to young people from lower social strata. The 2019 report also documents some recent trends: increased youth crime, cannabis use and violence, increased prevalence of mental health problems, less future optimism and more screen time. The report also shows that an increasing number of young people are not enjoying/thriving in school, and that there is an increasing number of young people who perceive school as boring.
A 2016 literature review published by the Centre for Welfare and Labour Research, OsloMet indicates that there has been an increase in mental health problems, especially among young girls and with a clearer increase in the 1990s than after the year 2000. The ‘Student Health and Well-Being Survey’ (SHoT) 2018 maps students' health and well-being in a broad sense, with an emphasis on psychosocial conditions. It is Norway's largest student survey on the topic. As many as 50,055 students responded to the SHoT 2018 survey. The survey is national and is carried out on behalf of the student associations SiT, SiO and Sammen. Survey results also confirm an increasing trend of mental health issues among Norwegian students.
Finally, the first national survey on child abuse and neglect among a representative sample of Norwegian 12-16-year-olds was completed in 2019. The Norwegian Ministry of Child and Family Affairs gave the Norwegian Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) the task to carry out the survey. The study had a cross-sectional design and participants were recruited from schools. A total of 9240 adolescents participated in the study. The results indicate that children and adolescents are still not sufficiently protected against child abuse and neglect, and that some groups of children and adolescents are more at risk than others. Most of the youth who had been subjected to one type of violence or abuse had also experienced other forms of violence or abuse. Girls had more often been exposed to several types of violence, than boys. Only a minority of youth who were subjected to violence and abuse say that they have been in contact with health care services after the abuse had ended.
The Norwegian government employs a broad definition of public health to include factors that directly or indirectly promote the health and well-being of the population, prevent mental and somatic illness, injury or suffering, or protect against health threats, and work for a more even distribution of factors that directly or indirectly affect health. Targeting young people’s health and well-being often fall under overall public health measures, but the current government health strategy #Young people health – the Norwegian Government’s strategy for young people health 2016 – 2021 [#Ungdomshelse – regjeringens strategi for ungdomshelse 2016-2021], focuses specifically on:
- Health and poverty
- Sports and volunteering,
- Bullying, prejudice and discriminatio
- Violence and abuse
- Drugs tobacco and alcohol
- Sexual health
- Mental health
- Young people health services, and the utility of digital platforms and services for young people