Ungdata revisited: A critical inquiry into the performativity of the mental health chapter of a digitalized survey system

Ungdata is a fast growing and expanding data-infrastructure running digitalized surveys of living conditions and health related behaviour of 16-18 year old teenagers. The Ungdata results feed into one of the major public health narratives of the early 21th century concerning the mental health of teenage girls, reporting high prevalence rates (25%), with a marked gender distribution, for depressive symptoms among youngsters.

However, the field of mental health epidemiology has for decades been struggling with methodological challenges that call for further critical inquiry. Both the performative effects of data-infrastructural work and the processes that influence the choices made in answering survey questions have been under-researched. This project will address these two areas of neglect through original empirical research.

We seek to explore the interpretive uncertainty of self-reported mental health that is lost in Ungdata’s standardized and digitalized form. Through the elicitation of self-talk during an off-line retake (n=50) of the survey and to the channelling of spontaneous conversations in focus group interviews (n=3) this project seeks to recover the social situation and verbal face-to-face communication absent in the Ungdata survey. Through a qualitative engagement with the quantitative this study aims to contribute with new insights to the understanding of Ungdata and the phenomena it produces, in an attempt to challenge the limits and meanings that circumscribe a generation of youngsters that still are in the process of coming into being.

Duration: 2019-2022

Project leader: Dr Ger Wackers, IHO, UiT.

PhD - candidate: Marthe Schille-Rognmo, IHO, UIT 


Ansvarlig for prosjektet: Marthe Schille-Rognmo