Thursday, 28 February 2013

Involving the People that Matter: A day with our Young Researchers

HBSC England is keen to include young people in their research as co-researchers. Young people can be involved as co-researchers in many aspects of the study – identifying new research areas, evaluating the questions used in the HBSC questionnaire and helping to explain current HBSC findings. Their active participation in the research process ensures the study and its methodology reflect being a young person in today’s society. For instance, taking on board young researchers’ feedback can ensure questions are easy to understand and reflect topics highly relevant to them. By actively involving young researchers in the HBSC study it does not only improve the study, but also helps to facilitate young peoples’ voice and influence over policy and practice.

The HBSC England team has been very active in involving young people in the research and has engaged in youth participation since we began the survey in 2009. Young researchers have worked with us to prepare for the last survey in 2009/2010 and are currently working with us for the next 2013/2014 survey. Recently we have run two workshops with groups of young people, to gain their understanding and perspective on the findings from the 2009/2010 HBSC study.
On Wednesday 20th and Friday 22nd February members of our team met with two separate groups of young researchers. One event was held at Glasgow Caledonian University London, and the other at the University of Hertfordshire. Fiona Brooks, our co-principal investigator, introduced the study to the young people and explained the reason for the workshop – we wanted them to provide their understanding and explanations of the 2009/2010 HBSC data. They were presented with ten booklets containing data and graphs from the 2009/2010 national and international HBSC report. The booklets covered different topics:
  1. Alcohol
  2. Family
  3. School
  4. Emotional health and wellbeing
  5. Physical Social and Health Education (PSHE)
  6. Neighbourhood and community
  7. Fighting and bullying
  8. Physical activity
  9. Electronic media communication (EMC)
  10. Healthy behaviours
The young researchers divided up into pairs or small groups, and chose two of the booklets. Within their individual groups they then worked their way through discussing the findings and reflecting on the possible causes behind them. In the final part of the workshop all the groups came together again, and each group presented their topic area and their understanding of the findings. This exercise allowed the young researchers to discuss all the different topic areas as a group, and resulted in some fantastic discussions. All the young people were astute and insightful, offering some fantastic opinions on the different topic areas. The events were a great success!

If you wish to find out more, we provided an up to date account on both days on our twitter account - @HBSCEngland.

Kayleigh Chester

Free seminar on bullying

Research on Adolescent and Child Health (ReACH) Seminar

Thursday 18th April, 1.30pm to 4.00pm
Room LF231, Wright Building, University of Hertfordshire

The presentations will be:

"Bullying: How do Canada and England compare?" - John Freeman, Queens University, Kingston, Canada
"The Road to Recovery: Does an intensive personal and educational intervention for bullied adolescents work?" - Sarah Woods, University of Sunderland
"Cyberbullying" - Jessica von Kaenel-Flatt, BeatBullying


Seminar open to all and free to attend, but booking is essential.

Please contact Julie Mace ( if you would like to attend.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Could later school start time improve adolescents’ sleep habits and general well-being?

Underestimating and neglecting the importance of sleep for adolescents can result in a huge negative impact on their health and well-being1. Research indicates that some small policy changes could improve adolescents’ sleep habits and reduce daytime tiredness as well as improving mood.  Research has found that a later start to the school day can help improve adolescents’ well-being in several different ways 1, 2, 3,4.
One US study2 investigated the impact of delaying school start time by 30 minutes on students’ self-reported sleep, daytime tiredness, activity motivation and depressed mood. The study involved 278 students at a private boarding school who were surveyed before and after the introduction of the delayed school start time. After two months students reported sleeping longer, feeling less tired during the day, and scored lower for depression. Further, motivation for engaging in various activities increased.
In Switzerland in a sample of 2716 adolescents (mean age: 15.4 years) the relationship of sleep duration with  positive attitude towards life and academic achievement were examined 3.  The  study  indicated that students in a school that started 20 minutes later than the other schools, reported getting 16 min more sleep on school nights, which was  associated with less tiredness during the day. The authors recommend a short delay of school start times by 20 min which will have a substantial effect on adolescents’ sleep duration and daytime tiredness.
The most interesting experiment was conducted   in America on a sample of more than 9000 adolescents from a single, large, county-wide, school district: adolescents’ sleep habits and motor vehicle crash rates were assessed by questionnaire before and after a 1-hour delay in school start times4. It was found that a 1 hour delay in school start time resulted in increases in average hours of nightly sleep and decreases of catch-up sleep on weekends. Also average crash rates for teen drivers in the same county in the 2 years after the change in school start time dropped 16.5%, compared with the 2 years prior to the change, whereas teen crash rates for the rest of the state increased 7.8% over the same time period.
Unlike the USA, the UK has not systematically evaluated experiments to change the school start time, although three secondary schools in North Tyneside and Kent have tested a later start time of 10am and have reported  anecdotal information on reductions in absence and persistent absenteeism1.

In the UK most secondary schools start at 8.30am, though there are number of schools starting at 9.00am. Based on current research, we might recommend policy makers to make further changes in school start times at least for half an hour, if not an hour. Meanwhile it would be interesting to compare the sleep habits and well-being of adolescents from those schools starting at 9am to those ones who start school earlier.

                                                                                                                        Ellen Klemera

  2. Owens, J. A., Belon, K., & Moss, P. (2010). Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behaviour. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 164, 608–614.
  3. Perkinson-Gloor ,N., Lemola,L., Grob,A.(2013) Sleep duration, positive attitude toward life, and academic achievement: The role of daytime tiredness, behavioural persistence, and school start times, Journal of Adolescence, January 2013.
  4.  Danner F and Phillips B (2008) Adolescent sleep, school start times and teen motor vehicle crashes,Journal of clinical Sleep Medicine, 4, 533-535

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sleep during teenage years influences emotional and physical health

The quality and amount of sleep during adolescence remains a neglected research topic in the UK while the importance of sleep for adolescents’ well-being is widely acknowledged.Some HBSC countries have already included questions on sleep in their questionnaire, and we have decided to include sleeping questions in England in the next round of HBSC.

Research suggests that optimal sleep duration for adolescents is 9 hours or more, with anything less than 8 hours considered to be insufficient. Both biological and social factors influence the duration of sleep: biological maturation, decreased parental influence, increased academic obligations and workload, social activities etc.An insufficient amount of sleep can cause a lot of daytime stress to young people. Not getting enough sleep produces higher levels of anxiety, depressive feelings, excessive daytime tiredness and fatigue3.  Research also shows that insufficient sleep influences adolescents’ emotional, social and psychological well-being and can produce emotional, cognitive, and behavioural problems, a higher risk of depression and even suicidal thoughts4. Recent studies have found that a delayed sleep schedule can be correlated with low self-control, a tendency to postpone tasks and poor time management.3 Better-rested young people usually have higher achievement motivation compared to those who do not sleep enough. 

Sleep difficulties may also have an impact on adolescents’ functioning at school, since sufficient sleep is important for learning and cognitive performance.  School-based surveys indicate that adolescents who sleep less than others achieve lower school grades.4,5,6 Students with sleep duration of less than 8 hours have been shown to exhibit more daytime tiredness, less behavioural persistence, less positive attitude towards life, and lower school grades in mathematics and languages compared to their counterparts who sleep longer.2,4

Adolescents also have their own individual  circadian preferences: adolescents who  function better at evening/night time (people commonly referred to as owls) go to bed and wake up later (especially on weekends), spend less time in bed during the week but more on weekends, have irregular sleep–wake schedules, and report poor sleep. Moreover, evening types nap more frequently during school days, often complain of daytime sleepiness and inability to concentrate, have poorer school achievement, more injuries and were more emotionally upset than the morning types (people who would prefer to function from early morning, so called larks). Evening types also used more caffeine-containing beverages and substances to resist sleeping in the day time.7,8

So how to improve adolescent sleep? Researchers recommend that young people strive to attain a sleeping duration of at least 8 hours.2, 5, 9  Another recommendation is the development of interventions to reduce screen-based behaviours in the pre-sleep period, as it has been found that screen sedentary time (watching TV etc.) dominate adolescents’ pre-sleep period and this is associated with a later sleep onset.10 Recent research also suggests that a later start time for schools can be beneficial for young people’s well-being; this will be looked at more in-depth in our next blog post.
                                                Ellen Klemera

  2. National Sleep Foundation. (2006). Sleep in America poll. Washington DC: National Sleep Foundation
  3.   Fuligni,A.J., and Hardway,C.(2006) Daily Variation in Adolescents’ Sleep,Activities, and Psychological Well-Being), Journal of Research on Adolescence , 16(3), 353–378.
  1. Perkinson-Gloor ,N., Lemola,L., Grob,A.(2013) Sleep duration, positive attitude toward life, and academic achievement: The role of daytime tiredness, behavioral persistence, and school start times, Journal of Adolescence, January 2013.
  2. Wolfson, A.R., Carskadon,M.A.(2008)Sleep Schedules and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents. Child Development, Volume 69, Issue 4, pages 875–887.
  3. Dewald, J. F., Meijer, A. M., Oort, F. J., Kerkhof, G. A., & Bogels, S. M. (2010). The influence of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleepiness on school performance in children and adolescents: a meta-analytic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 14, 179–189.
  4.  Howell, A.,Digdon, N.L., Buro,K., Sheptycki,A.R.(2008), Relations among mindfulness, well-being, and sleep, Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 45 (2008) 773–777.
  5. Gianotti,F.,Cortesi,F., Sebastiani,T.,Ottaviano,S.(2002)Circadian preference, sleep and daytime behaviour in adolescence(2002),Journal of Sleep Research, Volume 11, Issue 3, pages 191–199, September 2002.
  6. Owens, J. A., Belon, K., & Moss, P. (2010). Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 164, 608–614.
  7.   Foley,L.S.,Maddison,R.,Jiang,Y.,Marsh,S,.Olds,T.,Ridley,K.(2013)Presleep Activities and Time of Sleep Onset in Children, Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 2 February 1, 2013 pp. 276 -282 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1651.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Bullying has probably been a feature of childhood for many years, however during the last two decades it has become recognised as a problem which needs attention. Up until recently, bullying could be categorised into physical ie. hitting and pushing someone, verbal ie. name-calling and relational ie. excluding someone. However, with the advancement of new technology, a new form of bullying has emerged - cyberbullying.

The HBSC study has recognised the importance of research into bullying and how detrimental the effects are on children and adolescents. Bullying has been shown to have devastating and often long lasting psychological and physical health problems on both the victim and the perpetrator[1]. Participating in bullying behaviour has been associated with other negative health behaviours, such as; drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco and taking illegal drugs[2],[3]. The HBSC England questionnaire has always included questions about the traditional types of bullying, but for the next round we will also include questions on cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying harms victims through interactive technologies. Children and adolescents can use a variety of mediums including mobile phones, laptops and games consoles to cyberbully. The methods used by cyberbullies are endlessly inventive; including sending abusive messages, posting embarrassing photographs online, creating hate websites, sharing of personal information and silent calling victims. The development of cyberbullying was an inevitable progression in light of the recent rapid advances in technology and the growing increase in access to mobile phones, computers and the Internet, especially among young people.  

Cyberbullying warrants the attention of HBSC England because it is an area which is still relatively unknown. The virtual world in which cyberbullying takes place is often uninhabited by adults; adults are left on the side line of current social media due to a lack of computer savvy skills. Ofcom found nearly half of parents believed their children were more Internet knowledgeable than themselves[4]. Even for computer literate parents it is hard to monitor children's use of interactive technology because they often access it unsupervised through their mobile phones, and the social media sites and instant messaging services they use are exclusive and require acceptance as a "friend". This lack of adult presence makes detecting and understanding cyberbullying problematic.

Cyberbullying has properties which are not found in other types of bullying[5], so it is important to study it independent of the more traditional types. Cyberbullies can target their victim anytime and anywhere, because young people are almost always contactable through mobile phones. The bullying is no longer confined to just the school setting or other physical spaces, and the nature of cyberbullying means it can also reach a larger audience than the traditional forms of bullying. The actual act of calling someone names at school lasts for as long as the names are said, but a message of abuse posted on the Internet may stay online indefinitely for many more people to see. With most traditional forms of bullying the victim knows the perpetrator, but cyberbullying allows the perpetrator to remain anonymous and hidden which can be very distressing for the victim.

HBSC England acknowledges the detrimental effects cyberbullying can have on children and adolescents. By adding questions on this to the next HBSC England questionnaire we hope to understand cyberbullying and its consequences in more detail. The inevitable advancement of new technologies will only further heighten the interactive abilities of children, which will likely make this issue ever more important in coming years.

For more information visit BeatBullying.

Kayleigh Chester

[1] Due, P., Holstein, B. E., Lynch, J., Diderichsen, F., Gabhain, S. N., Scheidt, P et al. (2005). Bullying and symptoms among school-aged children: international comparative cross sectional study in 28 countries. The European Journal of Public Health, 15, 128-132.
[2] Nansel, T., Overpeck, M., S., Pilla, R., Ruan, W., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 2094-2100.
[3] Nansel, T., Craig, W., Overpeck, M., Saluja, G., Ruan, J. et al. (2004). Cross-national consistency in the relationship between bullying behaviors and psychosocial adjustment. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 158, 730-736
[4] Ofcom. (2012). Children and Parents: Media use and attitudes report.
[5] Slonje, R., & Smith, P. K. (2008). Cyberbullying: Another main type of bullying? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 147-154.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Youth Violence Declining in UK

Physical violence among young people is on the decline overall in nearly thirty countries including the UK, according to recent HBSC research.

Youth violence is a major concern in most countries with physical fighting being the most common sign of such violence.  The study’s findings show that investment in violence prevention programmes and other support networks do make a difference for the world’s youth. 
Over the last decade in the UK, a wide range of programmes have been made available to healthcare workers and doctors to reduce violence and associated triggers. These programmes have proven effective and have helped to lower the rates of violence in the UK. Such programmes include developing life skills in children and young people, working with young people who are potentially violent, as well as reducing the availability and misuse of alcohol. In addition, many schools across England have signed up to the UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Award.  This is a UK-wide initiative which helps schools to use the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child at the heart of a school’s values.  It teaches the rights and respects in all school relationships: not only those between teachers and their pupils, but also between pupils.  Evidence suggests that this programme may reduce bullying and also help create a more supportive school culture which helps protect young people from developing a tendency towards violence.

Although violence among young people dropped in the UK and the majority of countries in the study, Ukraine, Latvia and Greece did not show a reduction in youth violence among young people. This could be a reflection of the instability and turmoil these countries have experienced in recent years. A variety of factors predict the occurrence of violence among young people according to the study, including:

  • being born male
  • living in low income countries
  • living in more violent cultures with elevated murder rates
  • engaging in risk-taking behaviours including tobacco, marijuana and/or alcohol use
  • victimisation by bullying.

The in-depth results from the study will influence decisions in directing age and gender specific resources to these adolescent groups which are at risk of using violence. Strategies include family-based training, minimising violence in public media, and school-based anti-violence programmes and counselling.