Relative importance of individual and social factors in improving adolescent health

Dougal S. Hargreaves*, Dominic McVey, Agnes Nairn, Russell M. Viner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: In 2010, the English Department of Health launched a radical new public health strategy, which sees individual factors, such as self-esteem, as the key to improving all aspects of young peoples health. This article compares the strength of association between key adolescent health outcomes and a range of individual and social factors Methods: All participants aged 12-15 in the nationally representative 2008 Healthy Foundations survey were included. Six individual factors related to self-esteem, confidence and personal responsibility, and seven social factors related to family, peers, school and local area were investigated. Single-factor and multivariable logistic regression models were used to calculate the association between these factors and seven health outcomes (self-reported general health, physical activity, healthy eating, weight, smoking, alcohol intake, illicit drug use). Odds ratios were adjusted for gender, age and deprivation. Results: Individual factors such as self-esteem were associated with general health, physical activity and healthy eating. However, the influence of family, peers, school and local community appear to be equally important for these outcomes and more important for smoking, drug use and healthy weight. Conclusion: Self-esteem interventions alone are unlikely to be successful in improving adolescent health, particularly in tackling obesity and reducing substance misuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • adolescent health
  • behaviour
  • England
  • Public Health White Paper


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