What is Health and What is Important for its Achievement? A Qualitative Study on Adolescent Boys’ Perceptions and Experiences of Health

Eva Randell1, 2, *, Lars Jerdén1, 3, Ann Öhman1, 4, Renée Flacking2
1 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
2 School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Dalarna University, 791 88 Falun, Sweden
3 Center for Clinical Research Dalarna, Nissers väg 3, 79172 Falun, Sweden
4 Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS), Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

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© Randell et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Dalarna University, 791 88 Falun, Sweden; Tel: +46 23 778118; +4670 4619120; E-mail:


Few qualitative studies have explored adolescent boys’ perceptions of health.


The aim of this study was therefore to explore how adolescent boys understand the concept of health and what they find important for its achievement


Grounded theory was used as a method to analyse interviews with 33 adolescent boys aged 16 to 17 years attending three upper secondary schools in a relatively small town in Sweden.


There was a complexity in how health was perceived, experienced, dealt with, and valued. Although health on a conceptual level was described as ‘holistic’, health was experienced and dealt with in a more dualistic manner, one in which the boys were prone to differentiate between mind and body. Health was experienced as mainly emotional and relational, whereas the body had a subordinate value. The presence of positive emotions, experiencing self-esteem, balance in life, trustful relationships, and having a sense of belonging were important factors for health while the body was experienced as a tool to achieve health, as energy, and as a condition.


Our findings indicate that young, masculine health is largely experienced through emotions and relationships and thus support theories on health as a social construction of interconnected processes.

Keywords: Adolescence, boys, grounded theory, health, qualitative, well-being.