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School Health Research Network report highlights high level of mental health symptoms for young people in Wales

29 March 2021

WISERD research

A fifth of young people in Wales reported very high levels of mental health symptoms before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The School Health Research Network’s (SHRN) Student Health and Wellbeing Survey findings were released this month. The survey measured the health and wellbeing of around 120,000 young people in years 7 to 11 and the data revealed findings on young people’s health and wellbeing in 2019/20, prior to the pandemic.

Researchers from Cardiff University, including Professors Simon Murphy and Graham Moore from DECIPHer and the Wolfson Centre, were responsible for the report.

Professor Graham Moore said “Information on health and wellbeing has never been more important. Providing data to schools and other stakeholders enables ongoing assessment of young people’s health in Wales to feed into action planning to improve young people’s health, as well as opportunities for comparisons of global trends in adolescent health and wellbeing.

“A substantial proportion of young people reported a very high level of symptoms at the very beginning of their secondary school career, although this increased further with age. This indicates a need to better support young people’s mental health through secondary school, but also before they reach this stage of the life course.”

The report also found that girls were more likely than boys to report elevated mental health symptoms, with a substantial gender difference evident by year 10.

Those from less affluent families were most likely to report elevated symptoms, as well as those who identified as neither a boy nor a girl.

Professor Simon Murphy added, “Young people continue to face many health challenges and recent international findings indicate that issues persist across a range of demographic and social factors including health behaviours, such as diet and physical activity as well as other behaviours like social media use which present new challenges.”

“The impact of the pandemic also means young people are currently facing unparalleled long-term health, wellbeing and education changes. We hope that this report will serve as a baseline for short and longer-term monitoring of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, and recovery strategies, on young people’s health and wellbeing in Wales.”

“We are anticipating another round of data collection this year and look forward to continuing to work with teams across DECIPHer and the Wolfson Centre to undertake vital research to support young people’s mental health. Understanding findings from assessments like this will be vitally important in years to come.”

The SHRN Wales National Report including the Student Health/Wellbeing in Wales 2019/20 is available online and it was produced in partnership between DECIPHer, WISERD, Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and Cancer Research UK.

It is funded by Health and Care Research Wales, the Health & Social Services and Education & Public Services departments, Welsh Government and by Public Health Wales.

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