Aims The World Health Organisation has said that liking school is a protective factor against sexual risk taking and substance use. In the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey (HBSC) 2005-6, English children reported high rates of risky behaviour, despite a high percentage liking school. We investigated the correlation at country level between 3 measures of school experience and 4 measures of health behaviour.
Methods The HBSC study (2005-6) surveyed 204534 children aged 11, 13, and 15 from 41 countries. We accessed the country-level HBSC data from the WHO-Europe website. For each age group, we calculated Pearson's r for correlations between 3 measures of school experience (liking school a lot, feeling pressured by schoolwork and classmates being kind and helpful) and 4 measures of risk behaviour (smoking, having been drunk at least twice (all ages), having tried cannabis and condom use (15 year olds only)).
Results Age 11: Classmates being kind and friendly correlated with lower rates of having been drunk twice (Male: r=.35, p=.03; Female: r=.33, p=.04) and, for males, with significantly lower rates of smoking (M: r=.43, p<.01; F: r=.30, p=.06).
Age 13: Females liking school correlated with lower rates of having been drunk twice (r=.314, p=.048)). Classmates being kind and helpful correlated with lower rates of drunkenness (M: r=.475, p<.01; F: r=.437, p<.01) and male smoking (M: r=.435, p<.01; F: r=.281, p=.08).
Age 15: Males liking school correlated with lower rates of having tried cannabis (r=.326, p=.04), and male reporting of friendly classmates correlated with lower rates of smoking (r=.408, p<.01). For both males and females, higher school pressure correlated with lower rates of smoking (M: r=.372, p=.02; F: r=.447, p<.01).
No other significant correlations were found.
Conclusions The strongest correlate of healthy behaviour was having friendly and helpful classmates, which was linked to some measures of reduced smoking/alcohol use at all ages. Liking school was not a consistent correlate of healthy behaviour at country level.