According to the results of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children survey, carried out in cooperation with the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Europe, 29 per cent of young people in Estonia feel depressed more often than once a week.
Based on the report, young people in Estonia are generally at an average level among the participating 44 countries in terms of their satisfaction with life and self-assessment of their health. Young people in Estonia stand out with less than average mental well-being and more frequent health complaints, especially headaches, depression and feeling dizzy. Altogether 25 per cent of students who took part in the study feel depression and sadness more often than once a week, while 29 per cent of young people in Estonia do so.
Compared with four years ago, the situation has worsened among 13 and 15-year-old girls, both in Estonia and elsewhere. Estonia is one of the seven countries, along with Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the United Kingdom, where the wider prevalence of health complaints among young people is clearly manifested, especially among families with lower incomes.
15-year-olds especially stand out with a frequent feeling of loneliness. While the results of all the surveyed countries showed that 28 per cent of 15-year-old girls and 13 per cent of 15-year-old boys always or mostly feel lonely, these indicators are significantly higher among Estonian youth – 36 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.
Estonian kids better at solving problems
At the same time, compared with the average of the survey, Estonian boys and girls are significantly more confident in solving their problems and achieving their goals.
“Both international and national results in Estonia give us the opportunity not only to compare results, but also to create more tailored interventions and support for our young people in maintaining mental health. In Estonia, the emphasis should be on early intervention namely in the school environment,” Leila Oja, a researcher at the National Institute for Health Development and head of the survey in Estonia, said.
“Schools are not just educational institutions, but also an environment to support the well-being of young people. Our approach must be multifaceted, involving different parties – school, home, community, as well as local and national level decision-makers. Collaboration between educational institutions, the family, community health and youth centres and national mental health initiatives is essential if we want to achieve noticeable changes.”
The recently published survey results for the 2021/2022 school year are based on the opinions of nearly 280,000 children aged 11-15 from 44 countries. In Estonia, the study was conducted by the National Institute for Health Development from November 2021 to March 2022 and nearly 5,000 basic school students from 100 schools participated in it.