Young Persons Behaviour & Attitudes Survey 2019: Mental Health & Wellbeing

Date published: 13 November 2020

The Department of Health today published the “Young Persons Behaviour & Attitudes Survey 2019: Mental Health & Wellbeing” bulletin.

The Young Persons Behaviour & Attitudes Survey (YPBAS) is a school based survey carried out among 11-16 year olds (school years 8 to 12). It is commissioned jointly by a number of government departments and includes questions on a wide range of topics. Seven rounds of the survey have now taken place: 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. This publication presents an overview of the mental health and wellbeing modules from the 2019 survey.

Key Findings

  • Around three-fifths of respondents (58%) reported hardly ever or never feeling lonely; 36% reported feeling lonely occasionally or some of the time, whilst 6% reported feeling lonely often or always.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to report feeling left out, alone, and having no-one to talk to.
  • When asked whether they ever had concerns or worries about their mental health, 15% of respondents indicated they definitely have had concerns and a further 27% indicated to some extent. The corresponding findings from the previous survey in 2016 were 11% and 24%.
  • Over half (57%) of those who had concerns did not seek help; the most common reason given for not seeking help was that they felt they could handle things on their own.
  • On both the Stirling Children’s Wellbeing Scale and the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, girls had a lower mean wellbeing score than boys and mean wellbeing score decreased as you went up the school year groups.
  • The majority of respondents (95%) have family/friends who make them feel an important part of their lives. Similarly high proportions were found across the social support questions relating to having people to rely on, people to take care of them, people who make them feel loved and people who provide support and encouragement.
  • The majority of respondents (96%) used at least one social media site and of those who did so, 85% reported using it daily or on most days. 
  • Girls (44%) were more likely than boys (13%) to compare themselves to others on social media, to monitor the number of likes/comments/shares their posts get (47% of girls compared with 34% of boys), and to feel that their mood is impacted by this (23% of girls and 12% of boys).
  • Exploratory analysis suggests that the following factors may be associated with mental health concerns or worries: higher loneliness score, lower wellbeing score, older school year group, school type (grammar compared with secondary), use of drugs, drinking alcohol, some elements of social media use, and thoughts on body size. It should be noted that this analysis is limited to those demographic and health variables that are captured in the survey and is reflective of a single point in time.  

Notes to editors: 

1. This publication presents an overview of the mental health, wellbeing, loneliness, social support and social media modules from the 2019 Young Persons Behaviour & Attitudes Survey. This is the seventh run of the school based survey, with previous surveys in 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016.

2. The fieldwork for the survey was conducted by the Central Survey Unit of NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and covered the period September 2019 to February 2020.

3. A total of 8,118 children in school years 8 to 12 completed the survey. Due to the high level of interest amongst policy makers on the views and behaviours of young people, topics were split across two questionnaires to accommodate additional questions. Version A was completed by 3,892 children and version B by 4,226 children. The mental health and wellbeing modules ran in version B.

4. The results are based on information that has been weighted by year group, sex and religion in order to reflect the composition of the Northern Ireland post-primary population.

5. As the results are based on data collected from a sample of the population, they are subject to sampling error. This should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results. Differences reported are those that are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

6. This publication is available on the Department's website.

7. Additional information is available from:

Public Health Information and Research Branch~
Information Analysis Directorate
Department of Health
Annex 2, Castle Buildings
Belfast BT4 3SQ

Telephone: 028 9052 2340


8. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:

9. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt.             

10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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