From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Young People's Lifestyles and Health

Data on leisure-time activities was collected in the Twenty-07 study, the 11 to 16/16+ study and a study of 15 year-olds in Helsinki conducted by collaborators.  Four main patterns were identified (via factor analysis) which describe the different lifestyles young people pursue.  These were sports/games, conventional (home-based), commercialised and street-based lifestyles, the latter not being so evident in Helsinki as in the West of Scotland. 

A comparison of 15 year-olds between 1987 (Twenty-07) and 1999 (11 to 16/16+) in the West of Scotland found evidence of considerable change, most notably in the expansion of commercially-oriented lifestyles, e.g. going to the cinema, gigs, etc.  Gender differences in lifestyles also changed over this period, the most remarkable of which was a switch from the street to the home by males, and a switch from the home to the street by females, the consequence of which was that these previously gendered lifestyles had disappeared.  This change appeared to be part of the explanation for the finding that, between 1987 and 1999, levels of drinking and drug use among females reached male levels, and levels of female smoking overtook that of males. 

In a cross-cultural comparison between 15 year-olds in the West of Scotland (11 to 16/16+) and Helsinki, which involved examining the relative importance of lifestyles and social class for smoking, drinking and drug use, lifestyles were generally found to be independent of social class, and of more importance than class for health behaviours in both locations.  These results are indicative of the power of global influences to transcend national boundaries, at least in Northern Europe.  A comparison of the values held by these 15 year-olds was able to identify similar constructs representing values towards sex roles, work ethic, citizenship, authority, environment and equity in the two locations.  Glasgow youth showed more consensus, whereas those from Helsinki were more varied in their patterns of attitudes.



Sweeting H, West P. Young people's leisure and risk-taking behaviours: changes in gender patterning in the West of Scotland during the 1990s. Journal of Youth Studies 2003;6:391-412


Karvonen S, West P, Sweeting H, Rahkonen O, Young R. Lifestyle, social class and health related behaviours: a cross cultural comparison of 15 year olds in Glasgow and Helsinki. Journal of Youth Studies 2001;4:393-413

Former Staff


  • Factor analysis

    A statistical technique used to identify (unobserved) dimensions, or factors, underlying the inter-relationship between (observed) items.

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