Basic epidemiology of wellbeing among children and adolescents: A cross-sectional population level study

Tess Gregory, Alanna Sincovich, Mary Brushe, Amy Finlay-Jones, Luke R Collier, Blair Grace, Neida Sechague Monroy, Sally A Brinkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Wellbeing and mental health are fundamental rights of children and adolescents essential for sustainable development. Understanding the epidemiology of child and adolescent wellbeing is essential to informing population health approaches to improving wellbeing and preventing mental illness. The present study estimated the prevalence of wellbeing and how wellbeing indicators were distributed across social and economic groups. This study used data from the 2019 Wellbeing and Engagement Collection; an annual census conducted in South Australian schools that measures self-reported wellbeing in students aged 8-18 years (n = 75,966). We estimated the prevalence (n, %) of low, medium and high wellbeing across five outcomes: life satisfaction, optimism, sadness, worries and happiness, overall and stratified by gender, age, language background, socio-economic position and geographical remoteness. The prevalence of low wellbeing on each indicator was: happiness 13%, optimism 16%, life satisfaction 22%, sadness 16% and worries 25%. The prevalence of low wellbeing increased with age, particularly for females. For example, 22.5% of females aged 8-10 years had high levels of worries compared to 43.6% of 15 to 18-year old females. Socioeconomic inequality in wellbeing was evident on all indicators, with 19.5% of children in the most disadvantaged communities having high levels of sadness compared to 12.5% of children in the most advantaged communities. Many children and adolescents experience low wellbeing on one or more indicators (40.7%). The scale of this problem warrants a population-level preventative health response, in addition to a clinical, individual-level responses to acute mental health needs. Universal school-based programs that support social and emotional wellbeing have a role to play in this response but need to be supported by universal and targeted responses from outside of the education system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100907
Pages (from-to)100907
JournalSSM - Population Health
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2021


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