Social Influence Processes on Adolescent Health

Current and completed PhD-projects

Below you'll find a list of current PhD-projects at SIPA, as well as a summary of all completed PhD-projects from the last 6 years.

Main content

Social inequality in adolescence and its significance for differences in mental health in adulthood

PhD candidate: Magnus Jørgensen

Adolescence is a transitional period where significant changes occur in one's life. The brain develops, puberty sets in, and a wide range of social roles are tested for the first time. Historically, psychology has been very focused on the significance of childhood for mental health in adulthood. However, studies have shown that more than half of all mental disorders occur during adolescence, a result that has renewed interest in this critical phase of life. Depression and depressive symptoms have attracted researchers' attention, as depression is among the leading burdens of disease in the Western world. 

Research suggests that adolescence is a life stage with significant average fluctuations in depressive symptoms. Furthermore, it appears that teenagers follow different patterns in the development of depressive symptoms over time. Some experience an increase into adulthood, while others experience a decrease, and a large proportion experience a low, stable level over time. Since depression is often diagnosed following a period of subclinical depressive symptoms/mood, researchers are interested in understanding how this development changes over time. We know that socioeconomic status can be significant. Growing up in more challenging social conditions increases the risk of developing depression and other mental disorders. However, there are many other factors that may come into play that we know much less about. 

As part of Work Package 1 in the Longtrends project, we will therefore examine the effects of life transitions, life events, and health behaviors on depressive mood over time and whether the effect differs in higher and lower social classes. Additionally, we will investigate whether social support has a mediating effect on depressive mood, as several previous studies have shown that social support can indeed function as a protective factor against the development/exacerbation of mental difficulties. The project is based on data from the "Voksen i år 2000" (VITT) study. 

Social media use and body image in adolescence

PhD candidate: Catharina Wold Robson

Catharina's PhD project is associated with the large international WHO study Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC), and the Norwegian version of the study (HEVAS). The study was established in 1983 and is carried out every four years at secondary and upper secondary schools in Norway. The study aims to survey children’s and adolescent’s health habits, and includes questions about eating habits, physical activity, smoking, school well-being, support from teachers and fellow pupils, as well as the pupil’s health and well-being experiences. 

 The PhD project focuses specifically on body image in adolescence and investigates the connection between the use of social media and its effect on body image in adolescence. The project explores how an increased focus on self-presentation and social comparison on social media is connected to body image. 

Completed PhD-projects

Change and Stability in Self-Reported Leisure-time Physical Activity Across Four Decades

PhD candidate: Frida Kathrine Sofie Mathiesen

The social development of recent decades has led to increased concern about increasing inactivity, and physical activity is both a national and international public health priority. The doctoral thesis examines the development of self-reported physical activity in leisure time with high intensity, i.e., activity that makes one breathless or sweaty, and focuses on changes and stability in such physical activity over time by focusing on different subgroups. This was done using data from two different projects, one of which looked at changes over time in one generation from when they were 13 to when they were 40 years old, while the other looked at changes across several generations of young people from 1985 to 2014.

The intraindividual relations between social and academic self-efficacy, loneliness, academic stress and psychological distress in adolescence

PhD candidate: Sara Madeleine Kristensen

Today, there is increasing pressure on young people to appear perfect. They are expected to do well at school and have many, preferably popular, friends. This pressure and the unreasonable expectations from people around the young person, and themselves, can start a negative spiral of weak self-efficacy beliefs, school-related stress, loneliness and symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, there is a lack of research into how these factors are connected over time within adolescents. The project aimed to fill this knowledge gap by examining panel data from the COMPLETE project, which has followed a cohort of students from the beginning to the end of an upper secondary education.

Supervisors: Helga Bjørnøy Urke (main supervisor), Torill Marie Bogsnes Larsen og Anne Grete Danielsen. 

Clubhouse Member's Experiences of Being in Recovery in Light Salutogenesis

PhD candidate: Orsolya Reka Fekete

Mental illness is the leading cause of years lived with disability and a wide range of socioeconomic problems globally and in Norway. Addressing the challenges caused by mental illness, the Clubhouse programme offers lifelong membership as a voluntary participant in a working community for people with a history of mental illness. Despite its long history, there are several knowledge gaps regarding the Clubhouse programme. According to the literature, a comprehensive theoretical framework is lacking. There is little evidence of the active ingredients of the recovery process in the Clubhouse programme. Likewise, there is little knowledge on how individuals with mental illness experience being a member, and recovery in the Clubhouse programme, in a Norwegian context. Thus, the main aim of this PhD project was to explore and develop a theoretical and empirical understanding of the usefulness of the Clubhouse programme.

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 was 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 was based on a health promoting approach, where we investigated 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 conducted an interview with the responsible politician, the municipal bureaucrat and the social workers which help the youths. Last, but not least had 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

Temporal trends in psychological distress and healthcare utilization among young people

PhD candidate: Thomas Potrebny

Young people are generally considered to be healthy, as severe illness and mortality is uncommon during this developmental stage. However, there are increasing concerns that psychological distress may be increasing in recent generations of youth, which will generate greater healthcare needs. The overall aims of this thesis were to investigate the temporal trends of psychological distress (also referred to as psychosomatic health complaints) among the general youth population and to investigate the association between the utilization of the youth primary healthcare service and psychological distress.

Do norwegian muncipalities contibute to good and long lives?

PhD candidate: Susanne Hagen

In 2012, a new public health act took effect in Norway, highlighting the importance of health equity and the use of “health in all policies” (HiAP) approach to reduce social inequalities in health. The act passed the main responsibility for health promotion to the municipalities, and expected this level to act on the social determinants of health. The aim of this thesis was to investigate health promotion at local level in Norway, and examine how Norwegian municipalities address social inequalities in health. The main objectives were threefold: 1) to examine the use of public health coordinators (PHC) and the associations between having employed a PHC and municipal characteristics; 2) to examine municipal awareness of living conditions to address social inequalities in health; and 3) to examine municipal prioritization of fair distribution of socioeconomic resources among social groups, and its association with changes in HiAP- tools, such as health overviews and employment of PHCs.

Planning for Public Health. 

PhD candidate: Ellen Strøm Synnevåg

The Public Health Act (2012) requires Norwegian municipalities to use a ‘Health in Everything We Do’ strategy, where all sectors such as technical, school, kindergarten, and culture are responsible for promoting health. Many municipalities face challenges in establishing this cross-sectoral responsibility, as well as realizing the ambitions to promote health in actual action and economic prioritization. Through interviews and document analyses, Synnevåg examined how three municipalities use their planning processes and planning structures as a tool to legitimize the cross-sectoral responsibility and ambitions in the law.