The HBSC study in Switzerland

Objectives of the study

The Swiss HBSC study aims to assess health behaviour and lifestyles in fifth- to ninth-graders (seventh to eleventh grade HarmoS), most of whom are between 11 and 15 years old. The study is carried out every four years and is based on a nationally representative sample. This is why it allows to assess the health-related situation of adolescents in Switzerland on a regular basis, to compare it to the situation in earlier years, and to detect changes over time.

The Swiss HBSC study is one of the national health statistics in Switzerland. The study provides the federal and cantonal authorities with important information that can be used for health policy development. The HBSC study is also a valuable scientific basis for the development of prevention and health promotion programs, in the school and the recreational context as well as on federal and cantonal level. In particular, two of the national health strategies (the strategy on “addiction” and the strategy on “non-communicable diseases”) rely, in part, on HBSC data.

In Switzerland, the HBSC study is funded by the Federal Office of Public Health and the majority of the cantons. In 2018, Addiction Switzerland conducts the HBSC study for the ninth time (after 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014) in Switzerland.

Within the national HBSC study, the cantons may commission their own specific studies. Based on these studies, canton-specific analyses can be carried out and these cantonal results can be compared to the national results.

Reference population and methodology

The reference population are all classes from grade 5 to 9 in public schools in Switzerland. In some cantons these grades are called “7th grade H” (HarmoS) to “11th grade H” (HarmoS).

The cluster sampling method is applied in order to randomly select study participants; schoolchildren are the basic units and classes are the clusters. The sample of school classes is stratified by canton and grade.

 In 2014, 630 out of the 734 5th to 9th grade classes (7th to 11th grade HarmoS), which had been randomly selected for participating in the national study, agreed to take part in the survey (i.e. response rate = 85.8%). The final national sample comprised about 10’000 schoolchildren aged 11 to 15.

In every canton that commissioned a canton-specific study, a larger number of school classes was selected so as to survey at least 105 classes (oversampling).

 The HBSC questionnaire that is used in Switzerland comprises international questions and national questions. A team of experts of the countries that participate in the study elaborates the international questions; Addiction Switzerland adds some national questions in order to collect more data on specific topics. For ethical reasons and not to overburden younger study participants, some questions (the ones on use of illegal substances and on sexuality) are only included in the long version of the questionnaire intended for eighth and ninth graders (10th and 11th grade HarmoS), most of whom are 14 or 15 years old.

The participants complete the questionnaire in the classroom during a regular lesson (45 minutes). The participation in the survey is voluntary and the participants’ responses are strictly anonymous.

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