Health, economy and social capital in Nordic children aged 13-17 years and their families: changes between 1984, 1996 and 2011

Leeni T Bernntsson, Karin C Ringsberg, Bo Eriksson, Lennart Köhler


Background: Three repeated cross-sectional surveys, using representative samples of children, aged 2-17 years, stratified for age and sex, were conducted in each of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) in 1984, 1996 and 2011. The aim of the present study was to analyze how the health of Nordic 13-17 years old children developed over time, using results from the three surveys in relation to changes in economy and social capital.
Methods: Data from 2,905 children in 1984, 2,922 in 1996 and 2,257 in 2011 were collected using mailed questionnaires. Indicators in three areas were used. The Health indicator was taken as absence of psychosomatic complaints. Economy was represented by social class, housing and disposable income. Social capital contained absence of bullying, the child's organized group activities, parents playing with their children, and parents’ position of trust. Three composite indices one for each area were formed and called Health, Economy and Social Capital Index.
Results: There were statistically significant increases of psychosomatic health complaints for children 13-17 years in all the Nordic countries, strongest among girls, at the same time as the economy and social capital of the families increased, particularly in the first period (1984-1996).
Conclusions: In spite of the families’ growing economy and improved standard of living there is an increasingly harsh climate in society, with stress, dissatisfaction, bullying and mental health problems. It supports conclusions from other studies that only economic growth is not enough for the full wellbeing of the population. It also supports the importance of the social cohesion, affiliation and solidarity, advanced and reinforced by equitable distribution of the wealth. Social cohesion is important for schooling, on the values of self help, equity, to seek solutions for health among youths.

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International Journal of Healthcare  ISSN 2377-7338(Print)  ISSN 2377-7346(Online)

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