If there is one thing that defines the current generation of teenagers, it is the degree to which they are always “connected”—spending vast amounts of time online and on their digital gadgets, using social media, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, and using apps of all kinds.

The teenage years are also a time when young people grapple with a tangle of health concerns--many uniquely important during these particular years of life. Puberty, hygiene and weight problems: Teens must traverse a landscape replete with significant new health challenges—often while coping with substantial amounts of stress and sleep deprivation.

Qatari adolescents face severe health problems. Qatar has the highest rate of overweight boys and young men under 20 years old (34 percent) in the Middle East and in North Africa (Ng et al., 2014). Another serious cause for health problems in Qatar is smoking--of cigarettes, but also of shisha. In 2014, according to Qatar’s Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), 37 percent of Qatar’s population aged 15 and above said that they smoke tobacco (Doha News, September 2014). And in his study of undergraduate students, Abdel-Khalek (2013) posits that mental health problems are also comparatively frequent in Qatar.

Of course, Qatar has taken steps to address these health issues through a variety of national initiatives--from campaigns for a healthier diet to “Step into Health,” an app launched by the Aspire Zone Foundation in Qatar to help users keep track of their physical activity. Qatar also has invested in measures to convince teenagers to avoid smoking shisha or to quit the habit (Almulla, 2013). As a reaction to the mental health issues in the country, Qatar’s National Mental Health Strategy was launched in 2013 “to provide the best possible mental health services for our citizens, while changing attitudes towards mental illness” (Supreme Council of Health, 2013). Last but not least, in 2015, Qatar’s Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) and HMC started the “Beautiful Smile” program for school children to encourage them to care more about their teeth.

But do public campaigns in Qatar actually serve their purpose? And how, if at all, does the immense increase in health-related information on the internet and on social media help Qatari teens find effective health-related information? In addition, more and more health-monitoring devices and health-related mobile applications have become available. Do these technologies aid Qatari youth to monitor and change their health behavior?

Our study is the first of its kind to comprehensively investigate how Qatari teens use the internet for health information and how they evaluate it--in comparison to the many other sources that contain health information. In addition, it is the first national survey in Qatar to document teenagers’ use of digital technologies for health, such as mobile apps, social networking sites, electronic gaming, and wearable devices

This study was funded by NPRP 9-038-5-003 and supported by Northwestern University in Qatar, Northwestern University and Qatar University.

This project outcomes report for the general public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigators (PIs) for this award. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the PIs and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Qatar National Research Fund; QNRF has not approved or endorsed its content.

For press enquiries related to this study, please contact zeena.kanaan@northwestern.edu

This study was conducted by

Klaus Schoenbach & Marium Saeed, Northwestern University in Qatar

Ellen Wartella, Northwestern University 

Salma Mawfek Khaled, Qatar University



Schoenbach, K., Saeed, M., Wartella, E., & Khaled, S. M. (2017). Health Information and Monitoring Among Qatari Teens. Northwestern University in Qatar. Retrieved from teenshealth.qatar.northwestern.edu.


Schoenbach, Klaus, Marium Saeed, Ellen Wartella, and Salma M. Khaled. "Health Information and Monitoring Among Qatari Teens". Northwestern University in Qatar (2017). teenshealth.qatar.northwestern.edu


Schoenbach, Klaus, Saeed, Marium, Wartella, Ellen, and Khaled, Salma M.  Health Information and Monitoring Among Qatari Teens. Northwestern University in Qatar, 2017. Web. <teenshealth.qatar.northwestern.edu>.