Health behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: the health and lifestyle of Lithuanian children and adolescents are improving
Every 4 years since 1994, the Health Research Institute of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences conducts the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (HBSC) about children in grades 5 to 9. The study is coordinated by the World Health Organization. The main goal of this study is to evaluate children's and adolescents' health and its determinants as well as understand young people's behaviour in a health and social context. In 2018, 4191 pupils from 64 Lithuanian schools participated in the study, which was conducted for the seventh time, thus enabling the assessment of 25 years trends, a press release from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences states.
"In summary, it can be noted that overall health and lifestyle of children and adolescents shows trends of improvement: fewer children are unhappy and dissatisfied with their life, fewer adolescents use alcohol and tobacco, and the consumption of fruits and vegetables has improved. However, we are still behind in the context of Europe", says Lithuania's HBSC principal investigator assoc. prof. Kastytis Šmigelskas. According to him, the prevalence of bullying, which is twice the European average, is especially unsettling. It must be noted that a large part of Lithuanian children does not have a regular daily breakfast, is physically inactive and discontent with their bodies, lacks of oral health, and experiences psychosomatic symptoms. Moreover, the use of electronic cigarettes and cannabis is on the rise.
2018 HBSC study in Lithuania: selected facts and numbers
- 28% of students claim being bullied at least few times a month (29% in 2014).
- 19% have difficulty falling asleep at least few times a week (18% in 2014).
- 87% are happy with their life (87% in 2014).
- 32% experience at least two psychosomatic symptoms few times a week (32% in 2014).
- 18% are physically active for at least one hour daily (20% in 2014).
- 51% brush their teeth twice a day.
- Around 35% eat fruits or vegetables every day (31% in 2014), 52% have daily breakfast (52% in 2014).
- 13% smoke (12% in 2014), 18% smoke e-cigarettes (12% in 2014), 18% consume alcohol (20% in 2014).
According to most indicators, less healthy lifestyle habits are more common among older students.
It is important to take systemic organisational and infrastructural actions to improve children's physical activity. This should include not only broader opportunities to be active (installing indoor and outdoor places, gym equipment, showers in schools), but also appropriately organising the activities during school hours: increasing the number of physical education lessons and diversifying their content. Various practices such as relaxation of mind and body, yoga, Pilates etc. may be employed, besides only focusing on traditional team sports, running or reaching the measurable objectives. Physical activity should also be better integrated into various learning subjects.
It is also important to note that healthier habits should be practiced in the family: e. g. having breakfast at home, brushing teeth twice a day, opting for fruits and vegetables. The practices that children and adolescents see in their environment – family and school – are crucial in shaping and improving their healthy habits.
Both physical and mental health are important to one's well-being, with the latter getting more and more attention. There is a wide assumption that the improvement of mental health is pursued by each of us privately in our close environments, but it can be fostered at school too, by teaching stress reduction techniques, meditation, emotion's recognition, psychological resilience, and attention to social and personal relationships. One more factor influencing wellness is sleep; it is important not only to sleep an appropriate amount of time (7–8 hours), but also to go to bed at a regular time, cease stimulating activities before bedtime, and switch off mobile devices.
Detailed results of the 2018 HBSC study were presented on November 27 in the Lithuanian Parliament by researchers of the Health Research Institute of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences.