“Coping self-efficacy is among the key factors for the quality of life of children and young people,” says UiA researcher Hilde Timenes Mikkelsen.
“A belief in one’s ability to cope and good self-esteem are linked to a higher quality of life. People who experience a lot of stress and loneliness have a lower quality of life,” says Hilde Timenes Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen is an associate professor at the University of Agder (UiA). She researches health and quality of life from a family perspective and recently defended her doctorate in health and sport sciences at the University of Agder.
For the past four years, she has looked at the well-being of young people and their families: their quality of life, physical and mental pain, and health literacy during the pandemic.
The study looked at young people aged 14 to 17 years. The UiA researcher collected data when the pupils were in their second year of lower secondary school and again when they started upper secondary education.
Her results show that quality of life is strongly linked to self-esteem, self-efficacy, stress and loneliness.
“The study shows that young people's quality of life is reduced from the age of 14 to 16,” she says.
One of the reasons may be the Covid pandemic. Those who had their first year of upper secondary school had a reduced quality of life one year into the pandemic. The researcher compared this with findings from previous Norwegian studies and European data.
“The restrictions limited young people at a time of their lives when friends and social life are very important,” she says.
Girls and mothers in particular reported a lower quality of life and fewer concerns about coronavirus infection compared to boys and men. According to Mikkelsen, they were more concerned about infecting family and friends, than with being infected themselves.
Much of her data correlates with previous research, such as that the girls in her study largely scored worse compared to the boys. The girls reported a lower quality of life, more stress and poorer sleep. They also had far more pain, either physical or psychological.
Mikkelsen’s findings about the social life of the boys surprised her.
“We saw that the boys had a reduced quality of life from the age of 14 to 16. Low quality of life was linked to social support and friends.”
The thesis also shows that the young people and their parents had good health literacy, but they reported some physical and psychological pain.
The UiA researcher summarises the other findings as follows:
• High health literacy was linked to a higher quality of life. Health literacy means the ability to find, and act on, health information in a good way such as good hand hygiene and keeping your distance during the pandemic.
• Young people who reported physical or psychological pain had more stress, lower quality of life, poorer self-esteem, lower coping self-efficacy and experienced more loneliness.
• Those with persistent pain had poorer scores on stress, quality of life, self-esteem, coping self-efficacy and loneliness.
• Among the young people who had long-term pain, many reported that others in their family also experienced challenges with pain.
• Some young people used painkillers even when there was not a high level of pain. The same applied to their parents. This may indicate that painkillers are being used in the wrong way.
Mikkelsen's doctoral work is part of UiA's research group called Heifa, which studies health promotion from a family perspective.
The researcher thinks that we know too little about how Norwegian youth feel today.
“Young people need to feel that they can cope with life. We see that stress at school, among other things, can be a problem for young people. Therefore, more people should dare to have that conversation with them about how to help them cope with everyday life,” Mikkelsen says.