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J Youth Adolesc. 2016 Jul;45(7):1350-65. doi: 10.1007/s10964-016-0432-3. Epub 2016 Feb 10.

Loneliness and Ethnic Composition of the School Class: A Nationally Random Sample of Adolescents.

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National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Oester Farimagsgade 5A, 2nd Floor, DK-1353, Copenhagen, Denmark.
National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Oester Farimagsgade 5A, 2nd Floor, DK-1353, Copenhagen, Denmark.
School of Psychology, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia.
Department of Public Health, Section for Health Services Research, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Public Health and Quality Improvement, Central Denmark Region, Århus, Denmark.
Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.
Department of Criminology, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.
Utrecht Centre for Child and Adolescent Studies, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Loneliness is a public health concern that increases the risk for several health, behavioral and academic problems among adolescents. Some studies have suggested that adolescents with an ethnic minority background have a higher risk for loneliness than adolescents from the majority population. The increasing numbers of migrant youth around the world mean growing numbers of heterogeneous school environments in many countries. Even though adolescents spend a substantial amount of time at school, there is currently very little non-U.S. research that has examined the importance of the ethnic composition of school classes for loneliness in adolescence. The present research aimed to address this gap by exploring the association between loneliness and three dimensions of the ethnic composition in the school class: (1) membership of ethnic majority in the school class, (2) the size of own ethnic group in the school class, and (3) the ethnic diversity of the school class. We used data from the Danish 2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey: a nationally representative sample of 4383 (51.2 % girls) 11-15-year-olds. Multilevel logistic regression analyses revealed that adolescents who did not belong to the ethnic majority in the school class had increased odds for loneliness compared to adolescents that belonged to the ethnic majority. Furthermore, having more same-ethnic classmates lowered the odds for loneliness. We did not find any statistically significant association between the ethnic diversity of the school classes and loneliness. The study adds novel and important findings to how ethnicity in a school class context, as opposed to ethnicity per se, influences adolescents' loneliness.


Adolescents; Diversity; Ethnic composition; Loneliness; Multilevel analyses; School class

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