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The HBSC international research network monitors the health of teenagers, tracking data on health behaviour and wellbeing among 11-, 13-, and 15-year-olds. This is the age bracket in which young people begin to feel a greater need for autonomy, which might have significant impact on the development of health-related behaviours. Analyses show that these behaviours depend largely on the conditions in which young people live, including, among others, at home, at school, their place or residence, as well as the status and wealth of their family. The research, carried out by the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) research network using its unique technology, constitutes a key source of knowledge about health behaviour, self-perception of health, and wellbeing among young people. The findings are used on a national and international scale, to:

Identifying the factors that affect the health of young people, taking into consideration the social context, situation at home and school, place of residence, as well as the status and wealth of their families, allows to better understand the factors in, and potential impact on, the health of adolescents. Data are collected across all of the participant countries and regions, by means of surveys carried in schools, with the use of standardised methodology as specified in HBSC’s international research protocol. All countries and regions apply the cluster sampling method to select a sample of young people aged 11, 13, and 15. This allows to achieve a sample that is representative of the entire population in the respective age groups. Approximately 1500 pupils are then selected from each age group, in all HBSC countries and regions. 227 441 young people participated in the 2017/2018 wave of the study in total. At present, the HBSC research network includes 50 countries and regions in Europe and the United States.  The research commenced in 1982, and is conducted cyclically every four years, with the number of participating countries growing continuously. The HBSC network tracks behavioural and social factors of young people’s behaviour during adolescence, promoting a multi-specialty and inter-sector approach to solving the problems that the youth of today faces. Poland has been participating in this research project for over 25 years. There is no doubt that the findings from HBSC’s research – and especially the trends observed in the resent years – should have considerable impact on shaping current goals for the state’s public health policy.

Interdisciplinary research cooperation brings together experts with extensive specialist knowledge in areas such as clinical medicine, epidemiology, health promotion, paediatrics, education, psychology, public health, and sociology. This means that our research combines numerous perspectives into a holistic outlook on the health of adolescents. Behaviours that emerge in adolescence may continue into adulthood, affecting, among others, mental health, somatic disorders, physical activity, as well as propensity for alcohol consumption and tobacco use. The focus of the research is to understand the factors that affect young people’s health both individually and environmentally, taking the social context into account as well. HBSC’s new research model combines four primary perspectives: psycho-social (lifestyle in the social context), population (public health, and the epidemiological context of the phenomena that we look at), micro-social (multi-level analyses of study findings), and developmental (taking into account biological growth and maturation). The HBSC research network works in a 4-year cycle, each concluded with an international report. HBSC’s research protocol is always developed at the beginning of each subsequent cycle. It contains guidelines on research management, a research schedule, and a detailed description of the questionnaire, with theoretical background for the individual thematic aspects, question sources and phrasing, as well as coding instructions, all included in the protocol. The international questionnaire that is developed at the beginning of every cycle allows us to gather the same data in all participant countries, thus making it possible to describe relevant health-related factors and contextual variables. These data facilitate comparisons between the individual countries and, in the event of subsequent research being conducted, tracking trends that can be monitored both nationally and internationally. HBSC’s area of research interest includes primarily: body self-perception, bullying, dietary habits, injuries, life satisfaction, obesity, physical activity, social support (relationships, family, peers), school environment, self-perception of health, sexual behaviour, substance abuse: alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, weight-loss behaviours, and others. The HBSC network operates pursuant to the Terms of Reference document, which lays out the rights and duties of the network’s individual structures. Each country is represented in the HBSC network by a single research team, headed by the Principal Investigator who needs to by an employee of a national scientific institution. Member countries finance their membership in the HBSC network (including participation in and hosting of events, conducting surveys according to the international schedule and protocol, and publishing activities) individually. Principal investigators are responsible for acquisition of funding for research carried out in schools.

Structure of the HBSC international research organisation:

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