For over 20 years the Scottish HBSC study has investigated the health and well-being of school children in Scotland and the social contexts in which they are growing up. The HBSC survey is conducted every four years and collects data from Primary 7, Secondary 2 and Secondary 4 pupils from all over Scotland. The study is funded by NHS Health Scotland, with whom we work closely to develop the survey and ensure that the data collected is as useful as possible.

The Scottish HBSC study is part of a larger cross-national study which is conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe. The study currently covers 44 countries and regions in Europe and North America. For more information on the international HBSC study please visit the International HBSC. The Scottish HBSC study is conducted by the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit (CAHRU) at the University of St Andrews. CAHRU is currently the International Coordinating Centre (ICC) of the HBSC study and research network. Dr Jo Inchley is the Principle Investigator for the Scottish HBSC study as well as the elected International Coordinator of the study.

Survey Population

Data are collected through school-based surveys in each country, using the HBSC international standard questionnaire. The target population of the study is young people attending school, aged 11, 13 and 15 years. Each participating country samples around 1500-2000 young people in each age group.

How is HBSC Data Collected?

In Scotland the HBSC survey data collection begins in early 2014, following ethical approval of the University of St Andrews Teaching and Research Ethics Committee, and consent of local authorities, schools, parents and pupils. Pupils will be asked to complete a paper-based survey in a classroom under exam conditions, which takes on average 40 minutes. Each pupil seals their completed questionnaire in an envelope and these are stored securely before the data is entered onto a secure electronic database.

Survey Questions

The HBSC survey covers a wide range of health and social topics about physical activity, eating and dieting, oral health, smoking, alcohol consumption, self-reported health and symptoms, life satisfaction, spirituality, mental well-being, bullying, fighting and injuries, socio-demographics, family life, school environment and peer relationships. Additional questions are included for the older age groups on cannabis use (13 and 15 year-olds only) and sexual health (15 year olds only).
View the 2013/14 survey questions

How is HBSC data used?

The data collected by HBSC will be used to provide population-level statistics; none of the results from the study can be used to identify individuals. These statistics will be used to inform the development of policies and programmes tailored to the needs of young people at local, national and international levels.

After each survey, a national report is produced in Scotland. This report includes key findings on a wide range of topics, trend analyses and patterning by gender, age and socioeconomic status. In addition, an international report which allows for international comparisons, and briefing papers on specific topics, are made widely available to policy makers, practitioners, schools and voluntary organisations.

HBSC provides a vital tool for policy and planning in Scotland:

“HBSC provides the best tool for investigating why some health-related trends in children and young people are increasing and other trends decreasing by facilitating comparisons internationally”
Dr Gerry McCartney, Public Health Consultant and Head of Public Health Observatory Division; NHS Health Scotland

…and internationally:

“The [HBSC International] report provides a strong evidence base to support national and international efforts to strengthen initiatives that affect young people’s health and well-being. All government departments can use it to reflect health needs in their policies to define and achieve primary targets and to promote the precious resource that is young people’s health.”
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe

HBSC in Scotland provides data on 25 of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Indicators for Scotland developed by NHS Health Scotland.

HBSC Briefing Papers provide short succinct information and some recent examples are:

Collaboration with SALSUS

To help minimise the burden of our surveys on pupils and schools we are working hand in hand with the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS). HBSC and SALSUS are complimentary and together cover a very wide range of topics, providing vital information on adolescent well-being to the Scottish Government. HBSC provides a broad picture of adolescent well-being and the socioeconomic and behavioural influences on adolescent health. Whereas HBSC includes some indicators of substance use SALSUS is a specialist survey in the area of smoking, alcohol and drug use. The in-depth information that SALSUS collects on these topics has been used for monitoring purposes by the Scottish Government since 1982.


  • Professor Candace Currie OBE | Director of CAHRU
  • Jo Inchley | Principal Investigator
  • Alina Cosma | Research Fellow
  • Dorothy Currie | Senior Statistician
  • Karen Hunter | Research Administrator
  • Gill Rhodes | Assistant Administrator
  • Ross Whitehead | Research Fellow

Register interest

We at CAHRU are interested in engaging with our stakeholders. If you are interested in young people's health and wellbeing and would like to be kept appraised of our work, or if you would like to ask about more information, specific questions or to discuss your specific interests, please contact:

Gill Rhodes
tel. 01334 461733

HBSC National Report

Currie C, Whitehead R, Van der Sluijs W, Currie D, Rhodes G, Neville F and Inchley J (2015) Health Behaviour in School-aged Children: World Health Organization Collaborative Cross-National Study (HBSC): findings from the 2014 HBSC survey in Scotland. Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit (CAHRU), University of St Andrews
Download the full report