Open Access Research article

Self-rated mental health and socio-economic background: a study of adolescents in Sweden

Katrin Hutton12, Maria Nyholm2, Jens M Nygren2 and Petra Svedberg2*

Author Affiliations

1 Affecta psychiatric out-patients clinic, Sperlingsgatan 5, 302 48 Halmstad, Sweden

2 School of Social and Health Sciences, Halmstad University, SE 301 18 Halmstad, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:394  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-394

Published: 23 April 2014



Adolescents’ mental health is a major public health issue. Previous research has shown that socio-economic factors contribute to the health status of adolescents. The present study explores the association between socio-economic status and self-rated mental health among adolescents.


Cross sectional data from the Halmstad Youth Quality of Life cohort was collected in a town in Sweden. In all, 948 adolescents (11–13 younger age group and 14–16 older age group) participated. Information on self-rated mental health was collected from the subscale Psychological functioning in the Minneapolis Manchester Quality of Life instrument. The items were summarized into a total score and dichotomized by the mean. Indicators measuring socio-economic status (SES) were collected in a questionnaire using the Family Affluence Scale (FAS) and additional factors regarding parents’ marital status and migration were added. Logistic models were used to analyze the data.


Girls were more likely to rate their mental health below the mean compared to boys. With regard to FAS (high, medium, low), there was a significantly increased risk of self-rated mental health below the mean among younger boys in the medium FAS score OR; 2.68 (95% CI 1.35;5.33) and among older boys in the low FAS score OR; 2.37 (1.02;5.52) compared to boys in the high FAS score. No such trend was seen among girls. For younger girls there was a significant protective association between having parents born abroad and self-rated mental health below mean OR: 0.47 (0.24;0.91).


A complex pattern of associations between SES and self-rated mental health, divergent between age and gender groups, was shown. The total FAS score was only associated with boys’ self-rated mental health in both age groups, whereas parents’ migratory status influenced only the girls’ self-rated mental health. Because of the different association for girls’ and boys’ self-rated mental health and SES, other factors than SES should also be considered when investigating and exploring the mental health of adolescents in affluent communities.

Adolescents; Self-rated mental health; Socio-economic status; Family affluence scale