Social Support in Teen Years Could Improve Later Mental Health

Miranda Hester

Support in the tender younger years may lead to fewer mental health issues in the future, according to research.

Adolescence is a time of mental and physical fluctuation as well as a preparation for adulthood. The rapid changes that occur during this period may impact mental health, which could continue following the transition into being an adult. An investigation in JAMA Network Open looks into whether social support during the teenaged years could lead to fewer mental health issues once an individual is an adult.1

The investigation was a population-based cohort and used participants from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. The participants in the cohort were given either yearly or biennial assessments beginning at age 5 months until age 20 years. They were asked to self-report their perceived social support when they were aged 19 years using the 10-item Social Provision Scale. Then, when each participant was aged 20 years, an assessment of mental health issues such as depressive symptoms and suicide ideation was administered.

A total of 1174 adolescents were included in the study, breaking down into 574 female participants and 600 male participants. The researchers found that young adults who reported higher levels of perceived social support when they were aged 19 years subsequently reported having fewer mental health problems a year later. This remained true even following adjustment for a number of mental health problems, such as depressive symptoms and suicide attempts, in adolescence at aged 15 and 17 years as well as family characteristics such as socioeconomic status. Additionally, higher perceived social support was linked with fewer symptoms of depression (β = −0.23; 95% CI, −0.26 to −0.18; P = <.001 and odds ratio [OR], 0.53; 95% CI, 0.42-0.66 for severe depression) and anxiety (β = −0.10; 95% CI, −0.15 to −0.04; P < .001 and OR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.62-0.98 for severe anxiety). It was also tied to lower risks for outcomes related to suicide (for suicidal ideation: OR, 0.59 [95% CI, 0.50-0.70] and for suicide attempts: OR, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.46-0.79]).

The investigators concluded that perceived social support appears to help prevent the increase of mental health problems, at least over the course of a year. Providing social support during this transition period could help promote better health in the population.

Reference

1. Scardera S, Perret L, Ouellet-Morin I. Association of social support during adolescence with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in young adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2027491.