Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Teacher connectedness as a health asset

The HBSC England and HBSC Spanish team have recently collaborated to explore the role of teacher connectedness in young people’s well-being. The findings have been published in the Health Education Journal in a paper titled “Subjective well-being in adolescence and teacher connectedness: A health asset analysis”.

Teacher connectedness can be viewed as a feature of overall school connectedness, which Blum and Libbey (2004)1  define as an academic environment in which young people believe adults care about them and their learning. Teacher connectedness refers to constructive and supportive student-teacher relationships. Extensive research has demonstrated the positive outcomes school and teacher connectedness can have on young people's health and well-being, including risk behaviours2,3,4.

The paper sought to establish whether teacher connectedness was associated with well-being in young people of different ages and from different countries. Moreover, this research aimed to identify whether teacher connectedness has the same effect on well-being irrespective of young people's academic performance.  

The study included a total of 9444 students aged 11-, 13- and 15 years old, who completed the 2010 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey in Spain and England. Teacher connectedness was measured through a 5 item scale assessing student-teacher relationships, which was originally developed and validated within the HBSC network5. Items included "my teachers are interested in me as a person", and students responded on a 5 point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Young people's well-being was assessed with KIDSCREEN-10, a measure of health related quality of life specifically designed for young people6. KIDSCREEN-10 is derived from the more extensive KIDSCREEN-52, and measures physical, social, emotional and behavioural components of well-being.  School performance was measured through the question "In your opinion, what does your class teacher(s) think about your school performance compared to your classmates?", with response options "very good", "good", "average" and "below average".

Analysis demonstrated that teacher connectedness was positively associated with young people's well-being despite gender, age or country. While small differences between age and country were identified, overall it appears teacher connectedness can be viewed as a universal health asset for young people's well-being. Moreover, the association between teacher connectedness and well being was independent of perceived school performance; young people who reported below average school performance benefitted from teacher connectedness also.

For a more detailed discussion of this research you can access the published paper by clicking here.


  1. Blum, R. W. & Libbey, H. P. (2004). school connectedness - Strengthening health and education outcomes for teenagers - Executive summary. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 231-232.
  2. McNeely, C. & Falci, C. (2004). School connectedness and the transition into and out of health-risk behavior among adolescents: a comparison of social belonging and teacher support. J Sch Health, 74(7),284–92.
  3. Brooks, F., Magnusson, J., Spencer, N. & Morgan, A. (2012). Adolescent multiple risk behaviour: An assets approach to the role of family, school and community. Journal of Public Health, 34(S1), 48–56.
  4. Blum, R. W. (2005). A case for school connectedness. Educational Leadership, 62(7), 16–20.
  5. Torsheim, T., Wold, B. & Samdal, O. (2000). The teacher and classmate support scale: Factor structure, test–retest reliability and validity in samples of 13- and 15-year old adolescents. School Psychology International, 21(2), 195–212.
  6.  Ravens-Sieberer, U., Herdman, M., Devine, J., Otto, C., Bullinger, M., Rose, M., & Klasen, F. (2014). The European KIDSCREEN approach to measure quality of life and well-being in children: development, current application, and future advances. Quality of Life Research, 23(3), 791–803.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

What is the point of playing video games?

This is a guest blog post co-authored by Sam and Tom. Sam and Tom are both year 11 students from a local school who joined the HBSC England team to gain work experience. They were tasked with writing a blog post on a topic which is important to young people. Carry on reading to see what they have to say about video games…

What is the point of playing video games?

What is the point of playing a video game? Well, what is the point of reading a book? What is the point of watching TV or listening to music? It is because it is something that we enjoy doing but that is not the only upside.  It has been proven that not only do video games give you faster reaction times and make you make fewer mistakes 1, because you are required to come up with ideas quickly, they also give you a level of critical thinking that will aid you for the rest of your life, and they even give you a level of educational prowess without any of the boredom and toil of classrooms and school. A study by Deakin University in Australia found that young people who had been playing games on consoles such as the Wii or the Kinect were better at kicking, catching and throwing a ball. In some cases video games can even be used as a way of relieving some of the stress that builds up over the day 2. Playing games as a family is one of the most exciting ways of playing video games, and even just playing with friends is a lot of fun and helps you to develop social skills. If you love to read books and you just can’t wait for the next chance to whip out a book and get reading then some games are perfect for you, those focused on the art of storytelling. The story of a video game is normally as in depth as the story of a book and, like a book, a video game can improve your story telling by giving you an example to work from. Well just pop in the disk for The Last of Us or for The Walking Dead and be swept down an emotional roller coaster by two of the most amazing stories ever told in a video game. Do you like music and you love to listen to it at every opportunity? Well if you do then just put in the disc for Skyrim or for Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater to hear some of the most awarded soundtracks in gaming’s short but commendable history. If you are feeling particularly adventurous you could go for one of thousands of indie games, from Prison Architect to Kerbal Space Program. You can even go out to one of the hundreds of arcades where many others are playing games and having fun together. Anything that you could ever want, from educational to strategy, from fighting to keeping pets, it all awaits you in the world of video games.

Computer games have long been a source of controversy among parents, but recent research suggests that there are many positive effects of adolescents playing video games not just the increased aggression and violent behaviour that the media suggests. In a recent study done by Kevin Durkin and Donnie Barber 3 it was found that various positive factors such as intelligence, leadership, interpersonal, mechanical and computer skills saw a significant improvement in adolescents that reported a high use of computer games compared to those who reported never playing. Not only this but it also led to lower levels of risk behaviours such as disobedience, substance use and truancy, only increasing levels of aggression, however the raise in aggression is so small it is negligible.

Not only do computer games have an effect on the individual, but they also have an effect on the friends that the adolescent chooses3. It was found that adolescents who reported never playing computer games were found to have riskier friends than those who reported a low or high use.  There are also other studies that have found that video games have various positive physical effects, not just mental. It found people who played video games showed an improvement in development of visual discernment and separation of visual attention, cognitive development in scientific/technical aspects as well as spatial representation. There have also been more in depth studies in to these cognitive and special abilities where it was found that those that play 10hrs of action games saw improvements in both special attention and mental rotation with these effects being most prevalent in women4. These skills gained from video games can be important in various practices such as mathematics and engineering sciences.

Video games are also now being considered as a future key tool of education 5,6,7. Due to technological advances it means that video games are now better than ever for training adolescents how to do various tasks. These could be a great tool as it allows for adolescents to be educated in an effective way that makes it more interesting and is also easier to cater to their learning needs than traditional methods and has been shown to boost results. It can help in many subjects as well such as mathematics, history and engineering. 

Not only is it useful in education it is also becoming a tool that doctors use in the treatment of adolescents. In a test done on several young cancer patients a group were selected to play a video game that addressed the issues of cancer treatment and care for young patients. It was found that those who took part in the video-game intervention their treatment was significantly improved and they had a better understanding of their treatment 8. Not only have video games been used in the treatment of cancer but they have also been used in training young doctors and surgeons providing an effective tool for learning key features of their profession1.

So as you have seen there are as many good points for playing video games as there are bad and whether it is helping your reaction time, your critical thinking or your storytelling every genre has got something completely different to offer you. Some studies show that video games can even be useful to help surgeons perform at their best1, so if it can be used to help people with such a difficult job and show good results they must be useful.   Some studies show that not only are many of the reports about video games greatly exaggerated they mislead people into not buying something that could greatly improve their living standards7. The study by Kevin Durkin and Bonnie Barber 3 shows that video games are some of the most useful and yet undervalued tools not only for entertaining but for teaching, for psychology and for socialising. The games on the screen may look mindless but just remember that on that screen not only is there entertainment, education and a mind set to help finish puzzles but a whole world of fun, excitement and above all else personal development. The most important thing to remember is that next time you see someone playing video games on a console or on a computer, why don’t you go and join them?

1. Rosser, J. C., Lynch, P. J., Cuddihy, L., Gentile, D. A., Klonsky, J. & Merrell, R. (2007).
The impact of video games on training surgeons in the 21st century. Arch Sur, 142, 181-186.
2. Deakin University (2012). Kids who play interactive video games have better motor skills. Retrieved 5th November 2014,
3. Durkin, K. & Barber, B. (2002). Not so doomed: computer game play and positive adolescent development. Applied developmental psychology, 23, 373-392.
4. Feng, J., Spence, I. & Pratt, J. (2007). Playing an action video game reduces gender differences in spatial cognition. Psychological Science, 18, 850-855.
5. de Aguilera, M. & Mendiz, A. (2003). Video games and education (Education in the face of a ‘parallel school’). Computers in Entertainment, 1, 1-14.
6. Williamson Shaffer, D., Squire, K. R., Halverson, R. and Gee, J. P. (2005). Video games and the future of learning. Phi Delta Kapplan, 87, 104-111.
7. Squire, K. (2003). Video games in education. International Journal of Intelligent Games & Simulation, 2, 49-62.
8. Kato, P., Cole, S., Bradlyn, A. S. & Pollock, B. H. (2008). A video game improves behavioural outcomes in adolescents and young adults with cancer: A randomised trial. Pediatrics, 122, e305-e317.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Some is better than none!

We have just published an article in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education entitled “Associations between physical activity in adolescence and health behaviours, well- being, family and social relations”.

The health benefits of physical activity have long been recognised; regular physical activity is linked to both positive long term health1 and emotional well-being2.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends young people have at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Despite the well documented benefits of physical activity, findings from the 2010 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study indicate only a minority of young people across Europe and North America reach the WHO recommendation3. In England, only 28% of boys and 15% of girls reported being physically active for at least one hour per day. Figure 1 (taken from the HBSC England 2010 national report) shows boys are more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity across all ages, however for both boys and girls the likelihood of being physically active for one hour each day decreases with age.  

There is a lot of emphasis on young people not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity, but little work has been done to establish the benefits of young people undertaking at least some physical activity. While a minority of young people in England reported being physically active every day of the week, most did report being physically active between 3 – 6 days a week.  Our recent paper addresses the impact different levels of physical activity can have upon adolescent’s health and well-being, leisure activities and social relationships.  

The HBSC England 2010 study measured physical activity via the question “over the past 7 days, on how many days were you physically active for a total of at least 1 hour per day?” We grouped young people’s physical activity levels into low (0-2 days), medium (3-6 days) and high (7 days). Analysis of the data demonstrated even medium levels of physical activity was associated with a number of positive health and wellbeing outcomes. Students who reported medium or high levels of physical activity were more likely to say their health was good or excellent and were more likely to report high levels of life satisfaction. Engaging in physical activity at least a few times a week was also beneficial for student’s body image – they were less likely to perceive themselves as being “too fat”. Moreover, those who reported medium levels of physical activity were more likely to have healthier eating habits and less likely to perform unhealthy behaviours such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Not only were health and wellbeing benefits associated with physical activity, but also a number of social aspects. 

Our paper identified links between engaging in physical activity and number of friends as well as participation in family sporting activities. It appears engaging in physical activity, even if does not meet the WHO recommended guidelines, can have a number of positive implications for young people’s health and social wellbeing.

For a thorough discussion of these findings click here to access our paper, published in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education.

  1. Hallal, P. C., Victoria, C. G., Azevedo, M. & Wells, J. C. (2006). Adolescent physical activity and health: A systematic review. Sports Med, 36 (12), 1019-1030.
  2. Brooks, F. & Magnusson, J. (2006). Taking part counts: Adolescents experiences of the transition from inactivity to active participation in school based physical education. Health Education Research, 21 (6), 872-883.
  3. Currie, C., C. Zanotti, A. Morgan, M. de Looze, C. Roberts, O. Samdal, O. Smith & V. Barnekow. 2012. Social determinants of health and well-being among young people: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study (HBSC): International Report from the 2009/2010 Survey. Copenhagen Denmark: The World Health Organisation (WHO).

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Mental Health Matters

August 12th sees International Youth Day 2014 promote young people’s mental health, using the slogan “Mental Health Matters”. The day is aimed at promoting awareness and tackling the stigma around mental health conditions, which can often leave young people feeling ashamed and unable to access the health services they require. However, the theme is also timely considering the recent scrutiny of young people’s mental health provisions in the UK 1,2.

When we use the term “mental health” people often assume it refers to mental health problems; however we all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. YoungMinds3 outlines six key features of mental health:
  • Capacity to form and maintain relationships
  • Continued psychological development
  • Age and intellect appropriate play and learning
  • Development of moral understanding
  • Ability to cope with some psychological distress
  • A sense of identity and self-worth

Like physical health, mental health can change throughout our lives. Childhood and adolescence is a particularly important period as it paves the way for future mental health; research suggests many mental health problems begin early in life4. Young people can develop a number of mental health problems, some of the more common include anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)5. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and experiencing mental health problems can impact upon young people’s lives. School attendance and achievement, unemployment, engagement with health risk behaviours and difficulties maintaining relationships are all implications of poor mental health.

Recent data on young people’s mental health problems in the UK is limited. The most up-to-date research suggests 1 in 10 young people aged 5 – 16 years have a clinically diagnosed mental health problem; with older children aged 11-16 years more likely to have a diagnosis6. The findings suggest mental health problems are more common among boys than girls (13% vs 10%); boys were more likely to be diagnosed with conduct disorders while girls were more likely to be diagnosed with emotional disorders.

There are suggestions that the prevalence of mental health problems among young people is on the rise7. Preliminary findings from 2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) England study, recently reported in The Guardian, offer support for this notion as self-harm in teenagers appears to have nearly trebled in the last ten years. ChildLine8 offer anecdotal evidence for a decline in young people’s mental health also, with the helpline reporting 41% increase in calls about self-harm in the last year.

HBSC England does not measure clinically diagnosed mental health problems, but it does take account of the nuances of mental health. Our mental health cannot be categorised simply into good or bad, and it does not remain the same across time and situations. We all have experiences of poorer mental health, for example when we are feeling low, anxious or stressed during difficult periods in our lives. Mental health can be viewed on a spectrum, and HBSC England measures the subtleties of mental health in the context of young people’s social lives.  

Life satisfaction assesses how happy young people are with their current lives. It is measured using the Cantril Ladder, where respondents rank their happiness on a ladder from 0 (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life). Data from HBSC England 20109 indicates 83% of young people reported positive life satisfaction. Figure 1 present’s life satisfaction by gender and age; girls show decreased life satisfaction with age and lower life satisfaction than boys at all ages.

Young people also reported how often they felt low. 49% of the young people surveyed reported rarely or never feeling low; figure 3 breaks this down by age and gender. Older girls were significantly less likely to report feeling low rarely or never.

These gender differences continue to be reflected in the proportion of young people who report feeling low at least once a week. Figure 3 shows girls were significantly more likely to report feeling low at least once a week than boys, and the likelihood increased with age for both boys and girls.

Research suggests 10% young people have a diagnosed mental health disorder6, but our 2010 findings indicate 28% of young people reported feeling low at least once a week (unpublished HBSC England 2010 data). While the measures used by HBSC England do not stretch to clinical diagnosis of emotional disorders like depression and anxiety, they do primarily gauge aspects of emotional health which probably accounts for the higher proportions observed among girls. It is difficult (and usually inappropriate) in a survey like HBSC to try and diagnose the conduct disorders that are more frequently experienced by boys. However, it is important to acknowledge the wide spectrum of mental health behaviours experienced by adolescents, and to recognise those who present poorer mental health despite not receiving a clinical diagnosis. Good care and support for these young people will matter both as a protective factor against developing more serious disorders later on, but also in ensuring optimal well-being in the here and now.

  1. BBC. (2014). Mental health cuts affecting. Rerieved on 4th August 2014, from
  2.  Guardian (2014). Children are suffering as mental health services fail to cope, say parents and teachers. Retrieved on 4th August 2014, from
  4. Anthony, J.C. et al. (2007). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the world health organization’s world mental health survey initiative. World Psychiatry, 6(3), 168-176.
  5.  Hagell, A., Coleman, J. & Brooks, F. (2013). Key Data on Adolescence 2013. London: Association for Young People’s Health
  6. Green, H., McGinnity, A., Meltzer, H., Ford, T. & Goodman, R. (2005). Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain, 2004. London: ONS
  7.  Collishaw, S., Maughan, B., Goodman, R. & Pickles, A. (2004). Time trends in adolescent mental health. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 45(8), 1350-1362.
  8. ChildLine (2014). Can I tell you something? What’s affecting children in 2013.
  9.  Brooks, F., Magnusson, J., Klemera, E., Spencer, N. & Morgan, A. (2011). HBSC England National Report. Findings from the 2010 HBSC study for England. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Communication with Parents

Despite growing independence during adolescence, family relationships still play an important role in socialisation and support, and continue to function as a strong determinant of adolescents’ health and well-being (1, 2). The time spent with parents drops from early to late adolescence but parents continue to play a key role in adolescents’ development. This role may be even more important than in the early stage, but may change and become less visible (3).

Open communication with parents and parents’ support are important factors for successful development of mental and physical health in young people. A strong association has been found between parental support and improved level of mental health, emotional well-being and reduced levels of health risk behaviors (4).  Adolescents who feel connected to their families and whose parents are highly knowledgeable about their child’s activities are more likely to delay sexual initiation, have lower incidence of sexual risk behaviour and teenage pregnancy, report lower levels of cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use,  and are less likely to engage in  violence and other problem behaviour (5,6,7,8,9,10,11). In countries & communities where stronger family ties are present, adolescents have fewer behavioural and mental health problems, particularly young women (12).Parental communication functions as a protective health asset supporting to maintain high life satisfaction and positive body image through to late adolescence (13).

There are age and gender differences in how easy young people find it talking to mothers and fathers respectively: generally, both boys and girls report it to be easier talking to mothers than fathers, and younger adolescents find communication easier than do older ones (See figures 1 and 2 below).

Results from HBSC England 2009/10 (14) indicated that young people who reported having high quality of parental communication also have less health complaints like headaches and stomach aches, higher life satisfaction,  and rate their overall health as higher than those young people who reported having poorer quality parental communication. Overall parental communication functions as a protective health asset supporting to maintain high life satisfaction and health related quality of life.

Drawing on a qualitative project linked to the HBSC study, interesting insights have been found regarding young peoples’ expectations and attitudes towards parental communications. Although seeking independence, the desire and need for support and positive communication with their parents remained strong. Against commonly accepted views that during adolescence young people value peer relationship more and spend less time with their parents, it appears that family communication and parental communication are still very important and necessary for young teenagers of both genders. It appears though that at this stage, young people are seeking equal partners in parents and wish to have communication based on trust.

  1. Levin, K. A., & Currie, C. (2010). Family structure, mother-child communication, father child communication, and adolescent life satisfaction. A cross-sectional multilevel analysis. Health Education, 110, 152-168. 
  2. Velleman, R. D., Templeton, L. J., & Copello A. G. (2005). The role of the family in preventing and intervening with substance use and misuse: A comprehensive review of family interventions, with a focus on young people. Drug and Alcohol Review, 24, 93-109. 
  3. Moretti, M.(2004) Adolescent-parent attachment: Bonds that support healthy development Paediatr.  Child Health. Oct 2004; 9(8): 551–555.
  4. Moreno C, Sánchez-Queija I, Muñoz-Tinoco V, Gaspar de Matos M, Dallago L, ter Bogt T, Camacho I, Rivera F and the HBSC Peer Culture Focus Group (2009) Cross-national associations between parent and peer communication and psychological complaints. International Journal of Public Health, 54, S235-242.
  5.  Resnick, M.D., Bearman P.S., Blum, R.W. (1997) Protecting adolescents from harm. The Journal of American Medical Association, 278:823–32.
  6. Borowsky, I.W., Ireland, M., Resnick, M.D. (2002)Violence risk and protective factors among youth held back in school. Ambulatory Paediatrics, 2: 475–84.
  7.  Fletcher AC, Steinberg L, Williams-Wheeler M. (2004) Parental influence on adolescent problem behaviour: revisiting Stattin and Kerr. Child Dev 2004; 75: 781–96.
  8. Bonnie R. J., O’connell M.E., eds.(2004) Reducing underage drinking: a collective responsibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press;
  9.  Crosby, R.A., DiClemente, R.J., Wingood, G.M., Lang, D.L., Harrington, K. (2003) Infrequent parental monitoring predicts sexually transmitted infections among low-income African American female adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med,157: 169–73;.
  10.  Barber, B.K., Stolz, H.E., Olsen, J.A. (2005)Parental support, psychological control, and behavioural control: assessing relevance across time, culture, and method, Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 2005; 70: 1–137.
  11.   Sethi, D., Hughes, K., Bellis, M., Mitis, F., Racioppi, F.(2010) European report on preventing knife crime and violence among young people, Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
  12. Viner, R. M., Ozer, E.M., Denny,S. et al.(2012)Adolescence and the social determinants of health, The  Lancet, 379 (9826), 16411652.
  13. Fenton C, Brooks F, Spencer NH, Morgan A (2009) Sustaining a positive body image in adolescence: an assets-based analysis. Health and Social Care in the Community, 18, 189-198.
  14.  Brooks F, Magnusson J, Klemera E, Spencer N & Morgan A (2011) HBSC England National Report. Findings from the 2010 HBSC study for England. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire.

 Ellen Klemera

Monday, 19 May 2014

Why walk to school?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends young people need at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Physical activity is important for young people to keep healthy. It helps develop strong bones and muscles, maintain a healthy body weight and develop cardiovascular fitness. Regular physical activity has also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  While there are many physical health benefits of keeping active, physical activity is also associated with positive emotional wellbeing. Research has demonstrated regular physical activity is linked to lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress as well as increased self-esteem. Moreover, research suggests that young people who are physically active are less likely to adopt health risk behaviours such as smoking tobacco and alcohol use. Despite the benefits of physical activity, the findings from the 2010/11 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey indicate the majority of young people in England are not meeting the WHO guidelines1. Click here to see the latest HBSC national report.

Walking to school may be an easy way of integrating physical activity into young people’s lives. As part of National Walking Month, the charity Living Streets is running their annual Walk to School Week campaign from 19th to 23rd May. A number of studies have consistently demonstrated that walking to school can be an effective way of contributing to the recommendations set out by the WHO. A study carried out in England measured the physical activity of 2035 children aged 9 – 10 years; those who walked to school had higher levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity compared with those who travelled by car2. Like physical activity generally, walking to school has been associated with many positive health outcomes. Lubans and colleagues3 reviewed the literature on active travel to school and health related fitness, and found an association between walking to school and a healthier body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness among young people. Similarly, a recent study4 in Portugal found young people who used active means when travelling to school were more likely to have a healthy waist circumference and cholesterol levels compared with those who used cars or public transport.

The physical health benefits of walking to school are often promoted in the bid to encourage more young people to adopt  active travel methods to  school, however walking to school also has a number of positive effects on young people’s social developmental. Interviews and focus groups with adults and young people have demonstrated walking to school is associated with increased independence and responsibility, social skills and road safety skills5,6.  Children who walked to school demonstrated better spatial awareness and road sense; they were able to draw more detailed maps of their route to school which included pavements and pedestrian crossings6.

While there is no doubting the health and social benefits of walking to school, many children are unable to do so. In fact, active transport such as walking and cycling to school has become less common over recent years. In 1995/97, 53% of primary school children and 42% of secondary school children reported walking to school. By 2012, the numbers had decreased to 47% and 38% respectively. Consequently the number of students travelling to school by car has increased; from 38% to 44% for primary school students and 20% to 26% for secondary school students7. A number of researchers have explored the barriers preventing children and parents from walking to school, including family schedule, distance to school, weather and parental concerns about safety8.

Walking to school is associated with a number of positive physical and health social development outcomes however it is obvious certain barriers do prevent young people from walking to school every day. The Walk Once a Week (WoW) and Park and Stride scheme promoted by Living Streets may be ideal ways of incorporating walking to school into busy lives. Buckley and colleagues9 found active travel awareness days had positive effects on young people’s choice of travel, with parents noticed the awareness days increased their child’s motivation to walk to school. Let’s hope this Walk to School Week can have similar impacts in the UK…fingers crossed the sun keeps shining! 

  1. Brooks, F., Magnusson, J., Klemera, E., Spencer, N. & Morgan, A. (2011). “HBSC England National Report: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC): World Health Organization collaborative cross national study.”
  2. Owen, C. G., Nightingale, C. M., Rudnicka, A. R., van Sluijs, E. M. F., Ekelund, U. et al. (2012) Travel to school and physical activity levels in 9–10 year-old UK children of different ethnic origin: Child Heart and Health Study in England (CHASE). PLoS ONE, 7(2), e30932
  3. Lubans, D. R., Boreham, C. A., Kelly, P., Foster, C. E. (2001). The relationship between active travel to school and health-related fitness in children and adolescents: a systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8(5)
  4.   Pizarro, A. N., Ribeiro, J. C., Marques, E. A., Mota, J. & Santos, M. P. (2013). Is walking to school associated with improved metabolic health? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(12)
  5. Tooley, R., Bickerstaff, K. & Shaw, S. (nd) Beyond public health: benefits of walking on children’s social development.
  6. Living Streets (2008). Backseat Children: How our Car Dependent Culture Compromises Safety on our Streets.
  7. Department for Transport (2013). Statistical Release - National Travel Survey 2012.
  8.  Stewart, O., Moudon, A. V. & Claybrooke, C. (2012). Common ground: Eight factors that influence walking and biking to school.  Transport Policy, 24, 240-248. 
  9. Buckley, A., Lowry, M. B., Brown, H. & Barton, B. (2013). Evaluating safe routes to school events that designate days for walking and bicycling. Transport Policy, 30, 294-300.

Kayleigh Chester