Conceptualisation of health among young people: a protocol for systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies

Katrin Metsis*, Joanna Inchley, Andrew James Williams, Sebastian Vrahimis, Lamorna Brown, Francis Sullivan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Self-reported health is a widely used health indicator in surveys and questionnaires. The measure gained attention when research identified its association with mortality in the 1970s and 1980s. The measure is also associated with morbidity and other health outcomes such as the utilisation of health services. Self-reported health is a particularly useful measure for young people because this age group is generally clinically healthy. However, self-reported health starts to decline during early adolescence. It is known that many chronic conditions have long latency periods that are initiated early in life. Despite its widespread use, however, self-reported health remains a poorly understood concept.
This paper presents the protocol for a systematic review that will identify and synthesise qualitative studies that investigate how young people conceptualise health in the survey context, and overall. The population of the review is young people aged 10–24 years, with or without health conditions. We will search the databases of MEDLINE (Ovid®), PsycINFO (APA PsycNet), ProQuest Sociology Collection, and Web of Science Core Collection™. We will also utilise techniques of reference checking and forward citation searching, as this strategy has been shown to result in a higher number of high-quality studies in social science systematic reviews. Google Scholar and Google Search were used during preliminary searches; Google Scholar is utilised for forward citation searching. We will include studies written in English, German, or Finnish; there will be no lower date limit. One reviewer will screen all citations. A second reviewer will independently screen a sample of 20% of the abstracts. Data will be extracted by one researcher, two other researchers will independently review all data extracted, and quality appraisal completed by the first reviewer. We will utilise the Quality Framework for the appraisal of included articles, and thematic analysis to synthesise selected qualitative studies.
The results of this systematic review will improve the understanding of the self-assessments of health and the interpretation of the results of quantitative research. Also, an improved understanding of the conceptualisation of health will inform the development of health policies and interventions that support young people’s health.

Systematic review registration
PROSPERO CRD42022367519
Original languageEnglish
JournalSystematic Reviews
Publication statusSubmitted - 25 Jan 2024


  • Self-reported health
  • Young people
  • Adolescent
  • Inequalities
  • Preventive medicine


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