Innocenti Working Papers

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) was created to strengthen UNICEF's research capability and to support its advocacy for children worldwide. The Working Papers (formerly Innocenti Occasional Papers), are the foundation of the Centre's research output, underpinning many of the Centre's other publications. These high quality research papers are aimed at an academic and well-informed audience, contributing to ongoing discussion on a wide range of child-related issues.


Inequalities in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction

Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study

International studies of inequalities in adolescent health tend to focus on the socio-economic gradient in average outcomes rather than their dispersion within countries. Although understanding the extent to which differences in health are related to socio-economic disadvantage is important, focusing exclusively on socio-economic status risks neglecting differences in the distribution of health outcomes within and between countries. To fill this research gap, this study analyses variation in the extent of inequality in the lower half of the distribution in five indicators of adolescent health and well-being – health symptoms, physical activity, healthy eating, unhealthy eating, and life satisfaction – across EU and/or OECD countries that took part in the latest cycle of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study. The study then analyses secular trends in health inequalities over a decade between 2001/02 and 2013/14, using data from the latest four HBSC cycles. Inequality in unhealthy eating has the largest cross-country variation of all the indicators studied, while inequality in life satisfaction varies the least. The relative gaps in health and life satisfaction are significantly negatively correlated with the respective average outcomes. Inequality in health symptoms has increased in most of the countries studied between 2002 and 2014. In contrast, inequality in physical activity and in unhealthy eating decreased in the majority of the countries over this decade. About as many countries recorded a long-term increase as those that saw a decrease in inequality in healthy eating and in life satisfaction.


Keywords: balanced diet, health, adolescents, inequality, Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, physical activity
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