This study emerges as a response to the lack of youth perspectives when it comes to discussions about access to and experiences of health and social services in rural areas. It subsequently contributes to the literature by positioning young people at the centre of this debate, and by taking a more holistic approach to the topic than is typically the case. Specifically, based on the idea that a good life in proper health for young people may be contingent on notions of care that are bounded up in multi-layered social and spatial environments, the aim of this study was to explore what characterises 'landscapes of care' for rural youth.
In this qualitative study, the participants included young people and professionals residing in five diverse areas across the northern Swedish 'peripheral' inland. Individual interviews (16 in total) and focus group discussions (26 in total) were conducted with 63 youth aged 14-27?years and with 44 professionals operating across sectors such as health centres, school health, integration units, youth clinics and youth clubs. Following an emergent design and using thematic analysis, we developed one main theme, 'landscapes of care and despair', comprising the two themes: '(dis)connectedness' and 'extended support or troubling gaps'.
The findings illustrate how various health-promoting and potentially harmful aspects acting at structural, organisational and interpersonal levels contributed to dynamic landscapes characterised simultaneously by care and despair. In particular, our study shows how rural youths' feelings of belongingness to people and places coupled with opportunities to participate in society and access practical and emotional support appear to facilitate their care within rural settings. However, although the results indicate that some in the diverse group of rural youth were cared for and about, a negative picture was painted in parallel. These aspects of despair included youths' senses of exclusion and marginalisation, degrading attitudes towards them and their problems, as well as recurrent gaps in the provision and practices of care.
To gain a more comprehensive understanding about the health of rural youth, this study highlights the benefits investigating 'care-ful' and 'uncaring' aspects bounded up in dynamic and multi-layered landscapes.