Research shows that the quality of life of young people is linked to their self-esteem, coping self-efficacy, stress and whether they feel lonely.

This is important for adolescents' well-being

“A belief in one’s ability to cope is amongst the key factors for the quality of life of children and adolescents,” researcher says.

“A belief in one’s ability to cope and good self-esteem are linked to a higher quality of life. People who experience a lot of stress and loneliness have a lower quality of life,” Hilde Timenes Mikkelsen says.

Mikkelsen is an associate professor at the University of Agder (UiA). She researches health and quality of life from a family perspective.

For the past four years, she has looked at the well-being of adolescents and their families: their quality of life, physical and mental pain, and health literacy during the pandemic.

Health literacy means the ability to find, and act on, health information in a good way such as good hand hygiene and keeping your distance during the pandemic.

The study looked at adolescents aged 14 to 17 years. Mikkelsen collected data when the pupils were in their second year of lower secondary school and again when they started upper secondary education.

Her results show that quality of life is strongly linked to self-esteem, self-efficacy, stress and loneliness.

Hilde Timenes Mikkelsen believes it is important to get an insight into the lives of adolescents in order to understand them better, especially in professions where there is daily interaction with adolescents.

Reduced quality of life during the pandemic

“The study shows that adolescents' quality of life is reduced from the age of 14 to 16,” she says.

One of the reasons may be the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who had their first year of upper secondary school had a reduced quality of life one year into the pandemic. The researcher compared this with findings from previous Norwegian studies and European data.

“The restrictions limited adolescents at a time of their lives when friends and social life are very important,” she says.

Girls and mothers in particular reported a lower quality of life and fewer concerns about Covid-19 infection compared to boys and men. According to Mikkelsen, they were more concerned about infecting family and friends, than with being infected themselves.

Surprised by the boys' social lives

Much of her data correlates with previous research, such as that the girls in her study largely scored worse compared to the boys. The girls reported a lower quality of life, more stress and poorer sleep. They also had far more pain, either physical or psychological.

Mikkelsen’s findings about the social life of the boys surprised her.

“We saw that the boys had a reduced quality of life from the age of 14 to 16. Low quality of life was linked to social support and friends,” she says.

More physical and psychological pain

The study also shows that the teenagers and their parents had good health literacy, but they reported some physical and psychological pain.

Mikkelsen summarises the other findings as follows:

  • High health literacy was linked to a higher quality of life.
  • Adolescents who reported physical or psychological pain had more stress, lower quality of life, poorer self-esteem, lower coping self-efficacy and experienced more loneliness.
  • Those with persistent pain had poorer scores on stress, quality of life, self-esteem, coping self-efficacy and loneliness.
  • Amongst those who had long-term pain, many reported that others in their family also experienced challenges with pain.
  • Some adolescents used painkillers even when there was not a high level of pain. The same applied to their parents. This may indicate that painkillers are being used in the wrong way.

Mikkelsen's doctoral work is part of UiA's research group called Heifa, which studies health promotion from a family perspective.

She believes that we know too little about how Norwegian youth feel today.

“Adolescents need to feel that they can cope with life. We see that stress at school, amongst other things, can be a problem for adolescents. Therefore, more people should dare to have that conversation with them about how to help them cope with everyday life,” Mikkelsen says.

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