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Better academic performance and more substance use among those with the best housing conditions

New research on adolescents in Oslo uncovers big variations in living conditions

Halvard Dyb Published: Updated:
Illustration of a young boy

Better academic performance and more substance use among those with the best housing conditions

The researchers find especially clear differences when it comes to education and thoughts of the future.

School performances are notably poorer and ambitions regarding education more limited among adolescents in cramped housing conditions and among those who move often compared to those in better housing situations.

However, not all the findings point in the same direction.

When the researchers looked at use of substance use and behavior problems, they discovered that those who rent and/or live in cramped apartments have statistics on their side.

They have more rarely been intoxicated, and have less experience with use of cannabis. This pattern is largely due to a lower level of substance use among immigrant youth, who more often have poor housing conditions.


Family background not to be underestimated

Portrait of Patrick Lie Andersen 400X250

The researchers stress that they cannot establish that living conditions alone cause these correlations.

Much of the variations regarding circumstances of life are related to the adolescents’ family backgrounds. Important factors can be parents’ economy and level of education, whether the adolescents have minority backgrounds and whether their parents live together or are divorced.

The fact that adolescents in difficult living situations score lower on well-being and school performance may be due to their parents’ lack of resources. 

According to Andersen there’s still good reasons to believe that the adolescents’ living situations affect them, even independently of family background.

- Growing up in a tenement building without a private room, or the experiences several residence changes during adolescence, gives a person different experiences growing up than they would’ve had if they had a room of their own in a single-unit dwelling or had a stable upbringing in the same neighbourhood. It is probable that a difficult housing situation partially contributes to challenges among these adolescents, he says. 


8000 adolescents

Portrait of Hans Christian Sandlie 400X250

The study is based on analyses of information from the survey Young in Oslo 2015 (in Norwegian: Ung i Oslo 2015), compiled by researchers at NOVA.

It includes answers about living situation from around 8000 pupils in upper secondary school (‘videregående’), aged 16 to 19. The study is financed by the Norwegian State Housing Bank (Husbanken).

The Young in Oslo study has now been performed four times. The first was in 1996, then in 2006, 2012 and last in 2015. The next one will be in 2018.



Andersen, P.I. & Sandlie, H.C.: Osloungdoms bosituasjon og levekår – sosiale og geografiske forskjeller, NOVA-Notat 5/16. NOVA/HiOA Oslo 2016 (in Norwegian).