Self-related health, physical activity, BMI and musculoskeletal complaints: a comparison between foreign and Swedish high school students

Int J Adolesc Med Health. Jul-Sep 2009;21(3):327-41. doi: 10.1515/ijamh.2009.21.3.327.


Physical activities during leisure time and school hours as well as nutritional habits have changed over the past years by adolescents being less physically active and adopting a sedentary life-style. The aim of the present study was to investigate possible differences between foreign and Swedish high school students in terms of self-related health, physical activity, overweight, and possible complaints from the musculoskeletal system.

Methods: 1,090 high school students, 450 with foreign background and 640 with Swedish background, aged 16-26 years answered a questionnaire.

Results: A higher percentage of students with foreign background reported poor self-related health compared with students with Swedish background (p = .038). Students with a foreign background were to a greater extent less physically active than students of Swedish background (p = .003). No differences were found between the groups regarding musculoskeletal complaints. Students with foreign background were more often overweight than students with Swedish background and overweight was more frequent among males than females. Physical activity (moderate and high level) was concluded to be a factor with significant positive effect on self-related general health (moderate level p = .042, high level (p < .001), and musculoskeletal complaints were negative factors on self-related general health (p < .001).

Conclusion: The results suggest that adolescents with foreign background should participate in physical activity to prevent overweight and thereby improve physical health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / ethnology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult