Pressure from schoolwork is associated with health complaints in primary and high school students. Girls are more likely to report high levels of pressure and experience frequent health complaints. However, the moderating effect of gender on the relationship between pressure and health complaints has not been fully explored. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between pressure from schoolwork and health complaints for a sample of 11–12 and 13–14-year-olds in Australia (N = 4723), England (N = 2734) and Spain (N = 3743), moderating for gender and controlling for family affluence and teacher support. Across the entire sample, a significant relationship between pressure and frequent health complaints was found (OR = 3.03, p < .001). Among students reporting a lot of pressure, differences between boys and girls in marginal odds of frequent health complaints were greater in Spain than in Australia or England (difference in log odds: Australia 0.426, p = .211; England 0.445, p = .821; Spain 1.044, p < .001). Pressure from schoolwork is an important issue for student mental health. This study suggests that the role of gender in moderating this relationship differs across countries. Differing national approaches to testing and grade repetition, as well as differences in macro-economic and social contexts, especially between Australia and England on the one hand, and Spain on the other, are discussed as possible explanations for these gender differences. More research is needed on how these factors influence boys’ and girls’ perceptions of pressure and stress associated with schoolwork.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Australian survey data used in this paper are available from the Australian Data Archive (Project number 01309; doi:10.26193/MGM2TM). Data from HBSC are available from the WHO HBSC data bank www.hbsc.org
Azmat, G., Calsamiglia, C., & Iriberri, N. (2015). Gender differences in response to big stakes. Journal of the European Economic Association, 14(6), 1372–1400. https://doi.org/10.1111/jeea.12180
Banks, J., & Smyth, E. (2015). ‘Your whole life depends on it’: Academic stress and high-stakes testing in Ireland. Journal of Youth Studies, 18(5), 598–616. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2014.992317
Brooks, F., Chester, K., Klemera, E., & Magnusson, J. (2017). Wellbeing of adolescent girls: An analysis of data from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey for England, 2014. Public Health England, London. 1-12. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-behaviour-in-school-age-children-hbsc-data-analysis
Cosma, A., Stevens, G., Martin, G., Duinhof, E. L., Walsh, S. D., Garcia-Moya, I., Költő, A., Gobina, I., Canale, N., Catunda, C., Inchley, J., & de Looze, M. (2020). Cross-National Time Trends in adolescent mental well-being from 2002 to 2018 and the explanatory role of schoolwork pressure. Journal of Adolescent Health, 66(6, Supplement), S50–S58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.02.010
Currie, C., Inchley, J., Molcho, M., Lenzi, M., Veselska, Z., & Wild, F. (Eds.). (2014). Health behaviour in school-aged children (HBSC) study protocol: Background, methodology and mandatory items for the 2013/14 survey. Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit.
Elgar, F. J., De Clercq, B., Schnohr, C. W., Bird, P., Pickett, K. E., Torsheim, T., Hofmann, F., & Currie, C. (2013). Absolute and relative family affluence and psychosomatic symptoms in adolescents. Social Science & Medicine, 91, 25–31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.04.030
Escardíbul, J. O., & Villarroya, A. (2009). The inequalities in school choice in Spain in accordance to PISA data. Journal of Education Policy, 24(6), 673–696. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680930903131259
European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. (2018). The Structure of the European Education Systems 2018/19: Schematic Diagrams (Eurydice Facts and Figures, Issue.
García-Moya, I., Moreno, C., & Brooks, F. M. (2019). The ‘balancing acts’ of building positive relationships with students: Secondary school teachers' perspectives in England and Spain. Teaching and Teacher Education, 86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2019.102883.
García-Pérez, J. I., Hidalgo-Hidalgo, M., & Robles-Zurita, J. A. (2014). Does grade retention affect students’ achievement? Some evidence from Spain. Applied Economics, 46(12), 1373–1392. https://doi.org/10.1080/00036846.2013.872761
Green, A., Preston, J., & Janmaat, J. G. (2006). Comprehensive schooling and educational inequality. In Education, equality and social cohesion (pp. 118-140). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230207455_6.
Gurr, D. (2020). Australia: The Australian education system. In H. Ärlestig & O. Johansson (Eds.), Educational authorities and the schools: Organisation and impact in 20 states (pp. 311–331). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38759-4_17
Harris, A. (2003). Future girl : Young women in the twenty-first century. Taylor & Francis Group. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/flinders/detail.action?docID=182880
Ikeda, M., & García, E. (2014). Grade repetition. https://doi.org/10.1787/eco_studies-2013-5k3w65mx3hnx.
Inchley, J., Currie, D., Young, T., Samdal, O., Torsheim, T., Augustson, L., Mathison, F., Aleman-Diaz, A., Molcho, M., Weber, M., & Barnekow V. (Eds.). (2016). Growing up unequal: Gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health and well-being. Health Behaviour in School-Aged Chldren (HBSC) Study. WHO Regional Office for Europe(Health Policy for Children and Adolescents, No. 7). https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/303438/HSBC-No.7-Growing-up-unequal-Full-Report.pdf
Inchley, J., Currie, D., Budisavljevic, S., Torsheim, T., Jåstad, A., Cosma, A., Kelly, C., Arnarsson, Á. M., & Samdal O. (Eds.). (2020). Spotlight on adolescent health and well-being: Findings from the 2017/2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey in Europe and Canada. WHO Regional Office for Europe(International report. Volume 1. Key data). https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/332091/9789289055000-eng.pdf
Klinger, D. A., Freeman, J. G., Bilz, L., Liiv, K., Ramelow, D., Sebok, S. S., Samdal, O., Dür, W., & Rasmussen, M. (2015). Cross-national trends in perceived school pressure by gender and age from 1994 to 2010. European Journal of Public Health, 25(suppl_2), 51-56. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckv027.
Låftman, S. B., & Modin, B. (2012). School-performance indicators and subjective health complaints: Are there gender differences? Sociology of Health & Illness, 34(4), 608–625. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01395.x
Lager, A. C., & Bremberg, S. G. (2009). Association between labour market trends and trends in young people's mental health in ten European countries 1983-2005. BMC Public Health, 9(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-9-325
Lester, L., & Cross, D. (2015). The relationship between school climate and mental and emotional wellbeing over the transition from primary to secondary school. Psychology of Well-being, 5(1), 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13612-015-0037-8
Löfstedt, P., García-Moya, I., Corell, M., Paniagua, C., Samdal, O., Välimaa, R., Lyyra, N., Currie, D., & Rasmussen, M. (2020). School satisfaction and school pressure in the WHO European region and North America: An analysis of time trends (2002–2018) and patterns of co-occurrence in 32 countries. Journal of Adolescent Health, 66(6, supplement), S59-S69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.03.007.
Manacorda, M. (2012). The cost of grade retention. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 94(2), 596–606. https://doi.org/10.1162/REST_a_00165
Martin, A. J. (2011). Holding back and holding behind: Grade retention and students’ non-academic and academic outcomes. British Educational Research Journal, 37(5), 739–763. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411926.2010.490874
McDonald, A. S. (2001). The prevalence and effects of test anxiety in school children. Educational Psychology, 21(1), 89–101.
OECD. (2018). Education Policy Outlook: Spain. http://www.oecd.org/education/Education-Policy-Outlook-Country-Profile-Spain-2018.pdf
OECD. (2020). PISA 2018 Results (Volume V): Effective Policies, Successful Schools. OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/afb52a97-en.
OECD. (2021). OECD Gender Data Portal. https://www.oecd.org/gender/data/
Östberg, V., Almquist, Y. B., Folkesson, L., Låftman, S. B., Modin, B., & Lindfors, P. (2015). The complexity of stress in mid-adolescent girls and boys. Child Indicators Research, 8(2), 403–423. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-014-9245-7
Pedraja-Chaparro, F., Santín, D., & Simancas, R. (2015). Determinants of grade retention in France and Spain: Does birth month matter? Journal of Policy Modeling, 37(5), 820–834. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpolmod.2015.04.004
Putwain, D. W. (2009). Assessment and examination stress in key stage 4. British Educational Research Journal, 35(3), 391–411. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920802044404
Putwain, D. W., Connors, L., Woods, K., & Nicholson, L. J. (2012). Stress and anxiety surrounding forthcoming standard assessment tests in English schoolchildren. Pastoral Care in Education, 30(4), 289–302. https://doi.org/10.1080/02643944.2012.688063
Ravens-Sieberer, U., Erhart, M., Torsheim, T., Hetland, J., Freeman, J., Danielson, M., & Thomas, C. (2008). An international scoring system for self-reported health complaints in adolescents. The European Journal of Public Health, 18(3), 294–299. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckn001
Redmond, G., Skattebol, J., Saunders, P., Lietz, P., Zizzo, G., O’Grady, E., Tobin, M., Thomson, S., Maurici, V., Huynh, J., Moffat, A., Wong, M., Bradbury, B., & Roberts, K. (2016). Are the kids alright? Young Australians in their middle years: Final report of the Australian Child Wellbeing Project. www.australianchildwellbeing.com.au
Ringrose, J. (2007). Successful girls? Complicating post-feminist, neoliberal discourses of educational achievement and gender equality. Gender and Education, 19(4), 471–489. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540250701442666
Roberts, C., Freeman, J., Samdal, O., Schnohr, C. W., de Looze, M. E., Nic Gabhainn, S., Iannotti, R., Rasmussen, M., & the International, H. S. G. (2009). The health behaviour in school-aged children (HBSC) study: Methodological developments and current tensions. International Journal of Public Health, 54(2), 140–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-009-5405-9
Samdal, O., Wold, B., Klepf, K. I., & Kannas, L. (2000). Students' perception of school and their smoking and alcohol use: A Cross-National Study. Addiction Research, 8(2), 141–167. https://doi.org/10.3109/16066350009004417
Schwerdt, G., West, M. R., & Winters, M. A. (2017). The effects of test-based retention on student outcomes over time: Regression discontinuity evidence from Florida. Journal of Public Economics, 152, 154–169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2017.06.004
Sonmark, K., Godeau, E., Augustine, L., Bygren, M., & Modin, B. (2016). Individual and contextual expressions of school demands and their relation to psychosomatic health a comparative study of students in France and Sweden [journal article]. Child Indicators Research, 9(1), 93–109. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-015-9299-1
StataCorp. (2020). Statistical Software: Release 16.1.
Torsheim, T., & Wold, B. (2001a). School-related stress, school support, and somatic complaints: A general population study. Journal of Adolescent Research, 16(3), 293–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558401163003
Torsheim, T., & Wold, B. (2001b). School-related stress, support, and subjective health complaints among early adolescents: A multilevel approach. Journal of Adolescence, 24(6), 701–713. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2001.0440
Torsheim, T., Wold, B., & Samdal, O. (2000). The teacher and classmate support scale: Factor structure, test-retest reliability and validity in samples of 13-and 15-year-old adolescents. School Psychology International, 21(2), 195–212. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034300212006
Torsheim, T., Cavallo, F., Levin, K. A., Schnohr, C., Mazur, J., Niclasen, B., Currie, C., & FAS Development Study Group. (2016). Psychometric validation of the revised family affluence scale: A latent variable approach. Child Indicators Research, 9(3), 771–784. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-015-9339-x
West, P., & Sweeting, H. (2003). Fifteen, female and stressed: Changing patterns of psychological distress over time. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(3), 399–411. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00130
Whitty, G., & Wisby, E. (2016). Education in England – A testbed for network governance? Oxford Review of Education, 42(3), 316–329. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2016.1184873
The authors wish to thank all the young people and schools who so generously participated in the studies reported in this paper. The authors are also grateful for comments and suggestions by participants at the HBSC meetings and the conference of the International Society for Child Indicators Research.
This work was supported by the Australian Research Council and Australian Government funding partners under Grant nos. LP120100543 and DP190100247. The England HBSC Study was supported by the UK Department of Health No. 201617.The Spanish HBSC was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumption and Social Wellbeing. Irene García-Moya’s work has been supported by grant RYC-2017-21626, funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and FSE “El FSE invierte en tu futuro”.
None of the authors have disclosed any conflicts of interests associated with the analysis in this paper.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Redmond, G., García-Moya, I., Moreno, C. et al. Gender Differences in the Relationship between Pressure from Schoolwork and Health Complaints: a Three Country Study. Child Ind Res 15, 763–780 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-021-09879-0