Social Influence Processes on Adolescent Health

Main content

The Norwegian Longitudinal Health Behavior study (NLHBS)

The NLHB study is focused on health and health related behaviors throughout the life course. The purpose of the project is to increase our understanding of what factors promote the development of good health habits and behaviors. Findings from the project are intended to serve policy makers and societal organs that work to promote physical and mental health through early intervention and preventive efforts.

Project leader: Bente Wold

Funding: Research Council of Norway, Norwegian Council for Mental Health, L. Meltzers Høyskolefond, National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIFA) and the Norwegian Cancer Society.

Partners: University of Oslo (Institutt for samfunnsernæring, Institute of Psychology), Norwegian Institute of Public Health, UniResearch Bergen.

Project period: 1990 - (ongoing)

Current research on NLHBS: LONGTRENDS

Data collection

During autumn 1990, 1195 13-year-olds and their parents were randomly sampled from schools in Hordaland Fylke. They were invited to participate in a broad study on health. Since then, nine waves of data collections have followed - spanning 27-years in total - from age 13 to age 40. Parents participated from 1990 to 1996. 45,6% of the sample in 1990 were girls.

The dataset covers a wide range of variables, including depressive tendencies, self-esteem, body-image, life satisfaction, bullying, physical activity, criminal behavior, sexual development, eating habits, substance use, peer relations, parental relations, social support, living circumstances, life events, educational attainment, income level etc.























No. of respondents












The largest public health problems in the western world are intimately associated with people’s health habits and lifestyle. In particular, there are four health habits that are considered strong risk factors for common diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, depression and muscle disorders. These four health habits are: physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, smoking and substance abuse (e.g., drugs, alcohol). An effective reduction of these risk factors would contribute significantly to reduce illness and morality in the population. Preventive efforts and health promotion in this area must target the causes of unhealthy habits, therefore, we need to get a better understanding of why people smoke, are physically inactive and eat unhealthy. Better knowledge will enable policy makers as well as health organizations and practitioners to develop more effective initiatives to prevent common lifestyle diseases.

Issues in focus

1. How does health behaviors (e.g., eating habits, physical activity, substance use) change throughout the life course (from age 13 to 40), and how are specific health behaviors associated with each other?

2. What is the interplay between social and psychological factors in the development of health habits over time?

3. To what extent, do children inherent their parents’ lifestyle and health habits and is this inheritance conditioned on social inequality in society and psychosocial relations in the family?


Principal Investigator: Helga Bjørnøy Urke

LONGTRENDS is a research project at the University of Bergen that aims to increase the understanding of social inequalities in mental health in a life course perspective, with a focus on adolescence. Using four different data sources from the HEMIL Institute and the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Bergen, we will map societal trends in mental health and the importance of a number of social factors for the development of mental health.

A worrying number of children, adolescents and young adults develop mental health problems. There are especially many vulnerable people among those who grow up in low-income families or where the parents have a lower education, which is often referred to as social inequality in mental health. Material factors, psychosocial conditions and behavioral patterns in childhood help to establish guidelines for health, living conditions and participation in society later in life. Some children and young people may be vulnerable to transitions and life events such as changing schools, moving away from home, or their parents divorcing. For a number of children and adolescents, such incidents result in the loss of social support, networks and fewer financial resources. Some also develop behavioral patterns that may pose a health risk. Conclusively, transitions and life events can contribute to reinforcing social inequalities in health.

The aim of the project is to increase the understanding of social inequalities in mental health in a life course perspective. We will map societal trends in mental health among young people with different socio-economic backgrounds and examine the role that factors such as social support, family structure, gender, and major life events and transitions play in these contexts. We also want to develop more precise methods for measuring young people’s socio-economic status. To achieve these goals, we will use data from four studies of Norwegian youth and their parents, conducted in the period from 1980-2020. The studies allow us to follow the participants’ development from childhood and into higher education and working life, and also to examine how social background is related to mental health in different time periods.

The project is funded by The Research Council of Norway and is a collaboration between the HEMIL Institute, the Department of Social Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology, the University of Bergen, the University of Glasgow and the Universidade de Lisboa.

Drug prevention in a local municipality

PhD candidate: Olin Blaalid Oldeide

How does a municipality prevent youths from maladjustment? And how can we help the one’s who experiences problems in their everyday lives?

Loneliness, drug problems, difficulties in the family and psychological issues threaten the health of these youths. The Norwegian Public Health Act emphasizes the role of the municipality with regard to public health. The municipality is responsible for many of the essential welfare services youths meet everyday such as; The doctor that treats, the social worker that supports and the teacher who educate. The municipality not only has a important responsibility, but also a unique opportunity to help these youths.

This PhD project is designed as a case study, which gives an in-depth investigation into Bergen municipality as a setting and a structure for drug prevention. The project is based on a health promoting approach, where we investigate both the intersectoral collaboration between the key stakeholders and how the municipality addresses the youths in a resource-based approach. To investigate the structures for prevention we have conducted interview with the responsible politician, the municipal bureaucrat and the social workers which helps the youths. Last, but not least we have done focus groups with the youths themselves to understand their experience.

This has resulted in the following publications: https://wo.cristin.no/as/WebObjects/cristin.woa/wa/fres?sort=ar&pnr=622787&la=no&action=sok

Supervisors: Elisabeth Fosse and Ingrid Holsen

Junior-researcher: A Youth Participatory Action Project (YPAR)

Principal Investigator: Ingrid Holsen

‘Junior-researcher’ is an empowering program promoting youth voices and a positive psychosocial learning climate in schools. Concretely, Junior-researcher aims at providing youth with skills into conducting research and presenting findings that provide insight into issues experienced by young people themselves. The project is developed based on an YPAR project at the University of California, Berkeley, and later modified and developed further by Reidun Braut Kjosås, Anita Finne (Kvam herad), Ingrid Holsen (University of Bergen) and teachers and pupils at junior high schools. A pilot using a mixed method design will be conducted in six 9th grade classes during fall 2020. Website: www.juniorforskar.no


Evaluation of the Dreamschool model

Principal investigator: Torill Larsen

The main aim is to evaluate the use of the Dream school model developed by the Organization Adults for children. It is a health promotion and school-wide program for junior high and high school with the goal of promoting students ' mental health and help to create a good psychosocial learning environment. The program is part of the commitment to mental health in schools (PHIS), under the auspices of the Norwegian Directorate for health and Education Directorate. A pilot study in 2011/2012 focused on testing the program's implementation strategies and the various stakeholders ' experience of functionality. The new pilot (2014-2016) a case study (mixed metods) of 3 (4) upper secondary schools look at the effectiveness of the program applying an age-cohort design, as well as an in-depth study of the individual school through interviews with the various stakeholders (students, teachers, principals, peer mentors, and resource group leaders).

CO-CREATE: Confronting obesity: Co-creating policy with youth

Work package leader: Professor Oddrun Samdal

The CO-CREATE study aims to prevent overweight and obesity in adolescents by providing knowledge and infrastructure on policies to support making the healthiest choices the preferred ones. A consortium of 14 international research and advocacy organisations will work togehter with youth in order to adress the aims. The project is lead by Norwegian Institute of Public Health. HEMIL-senteret is responsible for one of the work packages. Link to web page

Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC)

Principal Investigator: Professor Oddrun Samdal

Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) is a cross-national research study conducted in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The study aims to gain new insight into, and increase our understanding of young people's health and well-being, health behaviours and their social context. HBSC was initiated in 1982 by researchers from three countries, and Norway was one of them. There are now 41 participating countries and regions.

The Research Centre for Health Promotion at the University of Bergen is responsible for the Norwegian study. Since 1983 data have been collected every four years among 11, 13 and 15 year olds and since 1994 also among 16 year olds. The most recent survey was conducted in 2005 and addressed adolescents' health behaviours, health perceptions, leisure time activities and school perceptions. More information on the international HBSC study, including reference to international reports from each survey and a list of all publications, can be found at: www.hbsc.org

Longitudinal Health

Principal Investigator: Professor Bente Wold

The main aims of the study are to examine tracking of health behaviours and subjective health during the life period from 13 to 40, and to analyse how social influence processes during adolescence may predict subjective health and lifestyle in adulthood.

This unique study started in 1990 among approximately 900 thirteen-year-olds and their parents in Hordaland county. Surveys among the adolescents have been conducted 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2007 and 2017. Parents have participated in 1990, 1993 and 1996.

The Positive Youth Development cross-national project

Principal Investigator: Nora Wiium

The Positive Youth Development cross-national project seeks to examine the extent to which developmental assets are available and accessible to the youth and emerging adults in different national contexts, and how these assets in turn relate to thriving and positive outcomes such as the “5Cs” of PYD (i.e., Confidence, Competence, Character, Caring and Connection), and subsequently, to young people’s contribution to the development of self and the society they are part of.

PAPA- project

Principal Investigators: Professor Bente Wold and Professor Oddrun Samdal

PAPA is a European-based project committed to enhancing young peoples’ health and well-being through positive experiences in sport. Seed funding for the project (approximately 3 million Euros) comes from a 4-year research grant from the European Commission (FP7 Health). The PAPA project will develop, deliver and evaluate a theoretically-grounded and evidence-based coach education programme first piloted in the UK and then rigorously tested in the UK, Norway, Spain, France and Greece. International PAPA-site.