The interplay between national and parental unemployment in relation to adolescent life satisfaction in 27 countries: Analyses of repeated cross-sectional school surveys

Klara Johansson, Solveig Petersen, Björn Högberg, Gonneke W.J.M. Stevens, Bart De Clercq, Diana Frasquilho, Frank Elgar, Mattias Strandh

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Abstract

Background: Previous research shows that parental unemployment is associated with low life satisfaction in adolescents. It is unclear whether this translates to an association between national unemployment and adolescent life satisfaction, and whether such a contextual association is entirely explained by parental unemployment, or if it changes as a function thereof. For adults, associations have been shown between unemployment and mental health, including that national unemployment can affect mental health and life satisfaction of both the employed and the unemployed, but to different degrees. The aim of this paper is to analyse how national unemployment levels are related to adolescent life satisfaction, across countries as well as over time within a country, and to what extent and in what ways such an association depends on whether the individual's own parents are unemployed or not. Methods: Repeated cross-sectional data on adolescents' (aged 11, 13 and 15 years, n = 386,402) life satisfaction and parental unemployment were collected in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, in 27 countries and 74 country-years, across 2001/02, 2005/06 and 2009/10 survey cycles. We linked this data to national harmonised unemployment rates provided by OECD and tested their associations using multilevel linear regression, including interaction terms between national and parental unemployment. Results: Higher national unemployment rates were related to lower adolescent life satisfaction, cross-sectionally between countries but not over time within countries. The verified association was significant for adolescents with and without unemployed parents, but stronger so in adolescents with unemployed fathers or both parents unemployed. Having an unemployed father, mother och both parents was in itself related to lower life satisfaction. Conclusion: Living in a country with higher national unemployment seems to be related to lower adolescent life satisfaction, whether parents are unemployed or not, although stronger among adolescents where the father or both parents are unemployed. However, variation in unemployment over the years did not show an association with adolescent life satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1555
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • HBSC
  • Health behaviour in school-aged children
  • Life satisfaction
  • National factors
  • Unemployment

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