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About the project

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Mental health and social inequality

There is a concerning number of children, adolescents, and young adults developing mental health issues. We know that children and young people growing up in families with low income or with parents who have lower education levels are particularly vulnerable. This is what we call social inequalities in mental health.

Material factors, psychosocial conditions, and behavioral patterns during childhood and adolescence influence health, living conditions, and societal participation later in life. Some children and young people are vulnerable to transitions and life events such as changing schools, moving away from home, or their parents’ separation. For some, these events lead to a loss of social support and networks, as well as fewer economic resources. Some also develop behaviors that can pose a health risk. In this way, transitions and life events can exacerbate social inequalities in health.

The goal of the LONGTRENDS project is to increase our understanding of social inequalities in mental health throughout the life course. In this project, we will map out societal trends in mental health among youths from different socioeconomic backgrounds and investigate the role of factors such as social support, family structure, gender, and major life events and transitions in these contexts. We also aim to develop more accurate methods for measuring the socioeconomic status of young people.

The project uses data from four different surveys of Norwegian youth and their parents from the period 1980 to 2020:

  1. Health Behavior in School-Aged Children  (HBSC) A WHO survey conducted in multiple countries.
  2. The Norwegian Longitudinal Health Behavior (NLHBS)
  3. youth@hordaland
  4. The COMPLETE project

These data provide a solid foundation for further research. By using data collected over 40 years, we can examine changes and trends over time and see how social background affects mental health throughout life. This can provide valuable insights into how mental health problems develop in young people and help identify areas that require extra effort. Through this project, we hope to gain a better understanding of how to combat social inequalities in mental health and create a society where everyone has equal opportunities to experience good mental health.


The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and is a collaboration between the Department of Health Promotion and Development and the the Department of Psychososial Science  at the Faculty of Psychology, UiB, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Lisbon.

For more information about the project, please see the project description


This page will be updated as articles from the project are published
En bunke papirer. Illustrasjon.

Parental separation and school dropout in adolescence


Kateryna Karhina, Tormod Bøe, Mari Hysing, Kristin G. Askeland and Sondre A. Nilsen.

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The aim of the study was to document the association between parental separation and school dropout in adolescence and to examine the factors that may potentially account for this association.

Data stem from the large youth@hordaland study that was linked to the Norwegian National Educational Database to obtain objective measures of educational outcomes and disposable income (N = 8323). Logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the association between parental separation and school dropout. A Fairlie post-regression decomposition was used to examine the influence of parental education, household income, health complaints, family cohesion, and peer problems in explaining the association between parental separation and school dropout.
Parental separation was associated with a higher odds ratio (OR) of school dropout in crude and adjusted (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)) analyses (OR=2.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) =1.90–2.45; AOR = 1.72, 95% CI = 1.50–2.00). About 31% of the higher odds of school dropout among adolescents with separated parents was explained by the covariates. The decomposition analysis suggested that parental education (43%) and disposable income (20%) accounted for most of the explained differences in school dropout.
Adolescents with separated parents are at higher risk for not completing secondary education. Parental education and disposable income accounted for most of the explained differences in school dropout between the groups. Still, the majority of the difference in school dropout remained unaccounted for, indicating that the link between parental separation and school dropout is complex and likely influenced by multiple factors.
En bunke papirer. Illustrasjon.

Civic Engagement and Mental Health Trajectories in Norwegian Youth


Nora Wiium, Sara Madeleine Eriksen Kristensen, Elisabeth Årdal , Tormod Bøe, Margarida Gaspar de Matos, Kateryna Karhina, Torill Marie Bogsnes Larsen, Helga Bjørnøy Urke and Bente Wold

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Introduction: Applying variable-centered analytical approaches, several studies have found an association between civic engagement and youth mental health. In the present study, we used a person-centered approach to explore whether civic engagement was related to optimal trajectories of mental health compared to other trajectories. We also examined how sociodemographic factors, such as socioeconomic status (SES), gender and age were related to youth mental health trajectories.

Methods: Our sample comprised 675 students (aged 16–22) who had participated in three waves of data collection (Mage = 18.85, SD = 0.55; 43% males) in the COMPLETE project, a cluster-randomized controlled trial that involved Norwegian upper secondary schools.

Results: The results revealed three trajectories of mental health (reflecting a combination of mental distress and mental well-being): optimal, intermediate, and sub-optimal. Contrary to our expectations, higher levels of civic engagement were not related to the optimal trajectory of mental health vs. other trajectories. However, we found that students who reported higher levels of SES and males were more likely to follow the optimal trajectory compared to other trajectories.

Discussion: While the findings on civic engagement could be due to our measurement’s inability to capture the concept of “dugnad,” a well-established civic activity in the Norwegian society, the findings regarding the influence of SES and gender suggest that there is still more work to be done concerning the assessment and advancement of factors that can address mental health inequalities across SES and gender.

En bunke papirer. Illustrasjon.

Tracking of depressed mood from adolescence into adulthood and the role of peer and parent support: A partial test of the Adolescent Pathway Model


Magnus Jørgensen, Otto Robert Frans Smith, Bente Wold, Tormod Bøe and Ellen Haug

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  • Adolescent depressed mood predicts adult depressed mood.

  • Peer acceptance during adolescence is not associated with adult depressed mood.

  • Household income moderates the effect of parental closeness on adult depressed mood.
En bunke papirer. Illustrasjon.

Sleep and dropout from upper secondary school: A register-linked study


Mari Hysing, Børge Sivertsen, Sondre Aasen Nilsen, Ove Heradstveit, Tormod Bøe and Kristin Gärtner Askeland

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Objective: The present study investigates the association between sleep in late adolescence and completion of upper secondary school.

Methods: The data are drawn from the youth@hordaland study, a large population-based study conducted in 2012, linked with official educational data in Norway (N = 8838).

Results: High school dropout was more prevalent among adolescents who had insomnia (20.6%) compared to those without insomnia (14.3%; adjusted risk ratios = 1.50; 95% confidence intervals: [2.19-2.92]). There was also a higher rate of school dropout among those who had symptoms of delayed sleep-wake phase (21%) compared to those without delayed sleep-wake phase (14.3%); adjusted risk ratios = 1.43, 95% confidence intervals: (1.28-1.59). School noncompleters were also characterized by reporting 44 minutes shorter sleep duration, longer sleep onset latency, and wake after sleep onset (both approx. 15 minutes) compared to school completers.

Conclusion: The importance of sleep for high school dropout rates highlights the importance of including sleep as a risk indicator and a possible target for preventive interventions in late adolescence.


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Helga Urke, prosjektleder 


Malin Schrøen Johansen, prosjektkoordinator

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