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Protective roles of home and school environments for the health of young Canadians
  1. John Freeman1,
  2. Matthew King2,3,
  3. Emmanuel Kuntsche4,5,
  4. William Pickett2,3
  1. 1Faculty of Education, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada
  2. 2Social Program Evaluation Group, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada
  3. 3Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada
  4. 4Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems, Lausanne, Switzerland
  5. 5Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Freeman, Queen's University, Faculty of Education, 511 Union Street, Kingston, ON K7M 5R7, Canada; freemanj{at}


Background The relationships of home and school environments, health risk behaviours and two sentinel adolescent health outcomes were examined in an aetiological analysis. The analysis focused on determinants of the health of young people and the role of school settings in the optimisation of health.

Methods Records were examined from the Canadian sample of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Survey. 3402 young people in Ontario, Canada were administered this survey in 2006, of which 1966 were re-administered the survey 1 year later and supplied complete data. Individual items and factor-analytically derived scales were used to examine potential aetiological relationships in a series of structural equation models. Health outcomes examined were serious injury and psychosomatic symptoms. Models developed from cross-sectional data were confirmed longitudinally.

Results Adolescents who reported negative home and school environments reported higher levels of substance use, psychosomatic symptoms and serious injuries (the latter identified in longitudinal analysis only). Engagement in health risk behaviour partially mediated the link between these two environments and the sentinel health outcomes. Positive school environments were protective in that they moderated associations between negative home environments and engagement in health risk behaviours. The effects observed in longitudinal analyses were generally consistent with those observed cross-sectionally.

Conclusions Negative home environments clearly place adolescents at risk for engagement in health risk behaviours and associated physical health outcomes. Positive school environments can in part moderate these relationships. Optimisation of school social environments therefore remains warranted as a population health strategy.

  • Adolescent health
  • aetiology
  • psychosomatic health symptoms
  • social environment
  • school health
  • substance use
  • wounds and injuries
  • adolescents CG, children
  • epidemiology FQ
  • health promotion FQ
  • health related behav

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  • Funding This study was supported financially in part by research agreements with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (operating grant 2004MOP-CHI-128223-C) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (contract HT089-05205/001/SS) which funds the Canadian version of the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Survey, a World Health Organization/European Region collaborative study. The principal investigator of the 2006 Canadian HBSC was William Boyce.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the General Research Ethics Board, Queen's University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.