Relationships among Adolescent Subjective Well-Being, Health Behavior, and School Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Adolescent well-being is usually observed from the opposite of well-being, or ill-being, and from the perspective of a minority of the adolescent population. Thus, adolescent well-being research focused mostly on objective problems and disorders, such as smoking and drinking habits, (1-3) drugs, (4) stress, (5) psychosomatic symptoms, (5,6) and mental disorders7 Recent studies indicate a constant upward trend in substance use among both female and male adolescents in developed countries. (1-4,8-10) Previous studies (10-13) indicated a complex relationship between social variables, such as family context and social bonding, and adolescent substance use. Previous studies also revealed a positive association between school distress and psychosomatic symptoms, (5) and school defiance and problem drinking. (14)

Health takes first place among the values of Finnish pupils and students. (1) Self-rated health status is associated with a higher risk of mortality, while a number of studies indicated that objective physical health correlates marginally with subjective well-being (SWB). (15,16) Thus, SWB involves a more complex and comprehensive concept than health: it includes both cognitive and affective experiences of SWB and combines the frequency and intensity of pleasant emotions and the absence of ill-being. Reaching and maintaining subjective well-being represents a general and important concern for most people. (17-19)

Few studies have focused on adolescent subjective well-being related to health behavior and school satisfaction from the adolescent perspective. This study is part of a research project investigating adolescent subjective well-being, values, health behavior, and family. This study seeks to examine the relationship of adolescent subjective well-being, health behavior, and school satisfaction. The specific aims were to examine: 1) level of adolescent well-being, school satisfaction, and health behavior; 2) the relationship between SWB, school satisfaction, and health behavior among girls and boys; and 3) the predictors of adolescent subjective well-being separately by gender groups.

METHODS

Sample and Procedures

A random sample was drawn from 13 communal secondary schools in a town of 180,000 inhabitants in southern Finland. The sample included 509 pupils, aged 12-17, attending seventh and ninth grades at the time of data collection in October and November 2000. Students completed an anonymous, classroom-administered questionnaire on a given day. Subjects returned 494 valid questionnaires, and 245 parents provided ex post facto written parental permission, resulting in a response rate of 48.1%. Nonresponse data did not differ from study data in the background variables of gender, class, school, and family type.

Measures

The questionnaire consisted of dependent measures of subjective well-being, and independent measures of school satisfaction, health behavior, and the background variables of age, gender, self-reported health, and weight. Age was a dichotomous variable indicating whether the respondent belonged to a younger or older group (12-14 years vs. 15-17 years). The independent variable of self-rated health was based on two items that asked adolescents to report whether they had a chronic disease or disability, and to rate their health on a five-point scale from excellent (1) to very poor (5). The variable of perceived weight was based on a single item that asked adolescents to rate their weight on a three-point scale from too high (1) to too low (3).

Subjective Well-Being. Subjective well-being was assessed using the 38-item Berne questionnaire of subjective well-being/youth form (BSW/Y) (20) and two subscales from a Finnish questionnaire of adolescent values and subjective well-being (FVSW) generated for this research project and pilot tested before use among 14- to 16-year-old pupils (N = 54). …