An Ecological Perspective on Health Promotion Systems, Settings and Social Processes

School as a Resource or Risk to Students’ Subjective Health and Well-Being

Author(s): Oddrun Samdal and Torbjorn Torsheim

Pp: 48-59 (12)

DOI: 10.2174/978160805341411201010048


This chapter discusses the relationship between students’ experiences in school and their health and life satisfaction, with particular emphasis on how social processes within the school setting play a significant role in this relationship. Building on data from a large international survey, the chapter aims to demonstrate how students’ overall life satisfaction is associated with health promotion processes in schools. By utilizing motivation-based theories such as self-determination theory and goal achievement theory, attention is focused on explaining the relevance to student life satisfaction of processes that stimulate: 1) student empowerment through autonomy and participation; 2) their relatedness to peers and teachers; and 3) learning processes through which students experience mastery. Further examples of how such processes can be stimulated are provided from the Norwegian and the European Network of Health Promoting Schools. This chapter demonstrates that a school environment that does not stimulate health promotion processes is more likely to be perceived as stressful by the students. Exploring the school environment from a stress perspective verifies how high demands and student role strain in combination with low empowerment may result in higher levels of subjective health complaints and ill health.

Keywords: School setting, school satisfaction, life satisfaction, subjective health complaints, social processes, basic needs, autonomy, relatedness, competence, Health-behaviour in School-aged children study (HBSC), health promoting schools, school-related stress.

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