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OBJECTIVE: Recent studies suggest mental health in youths is deteriorating. The current policy in the United Kingdom emphasizes the role of schools for mental health promotion and prevention, but little data exist on what aspects of schools influence mental health in pupils. This study explored school-level influences on the mental health of young people in a large school-based sample from the United Kingdom. METHOD: Baseline data from a large cluster randomized controlled trial collected between 2016 and 2018 from mainstream secondary schools selected to be representative in relation to their quality rating, size, deprivation, mixed or single-sex pupil population, and country were analyzed. Participants were pupils in their first or second year of secondary school. The study assessed whether school-level factors were associated with pupil mental health. RESULTS: The study included 26,885 pupils (response rate = 90%; age range, 11‒14 years; 55% female) attending 85 schools in the United Kingdom. Schools accounted for 2.4% (95% CI: 2.0%‒2.8%; p < .0001) of the variation in psychopathology, 1.6% (95% CI: 1.2%‒2.1%; p < .0001) of depression, and 1.4% (95% CI: 1.0%‒1.7%; p < .0001) of well-being. Schools in urban locations, with a higher percentage of free school meals and of White British, were associated with poorer pupil mental health. A more positive school climate was associated with better mental health. CONCLUSION: School-level variables, primarily related to contextual factors, characteristics of pupil population, and school climate, explain a small but significant amount of variability in mental health of young people. This information might be used to identify schools that are in need of more resources to support mental health of young people. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION INFORMATION: MYRIAD: My Resilience in Adolescence, a Study Examining the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of a Mindfulness Training Programme in Schools Compared With Normal School Provision;; 86619085.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry

Publication Date





1467 - 1478


adolescents, mental health, school climate, schools, well-being, Adolescent, Child, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Health, Mindfulness, School Health Services, Schools, United Kingdom