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Sense of belonging vital for teenage mental health

Teenagers who lack a sense of belonging to social groups such as in their family, with friends or at school are more likely to have mental health problems, research suggests.

Teenagers who lack a sense of belonging to social groups such as in their family, with friends or at school are more likely to have mental health problems, research suggests

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Teenagers who lack a sense of belonging to social groups such as in their family, with friends or at school are more likely to have mental health problems, research suggests.

Psychologists at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Dundee found that the more social groups 13-17 year olds positively identified with at the start of their study, the better their mental health was a year later.

They also identified a reciprocal relationship, where those with better mental health at the start of the study would have the greatest number of strong social groups by the end.

20%

of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Source: World Health Organization

Some 409 secondary school pupils in Scotland completed a questionnaire twice over the course of a year – measuring their mental health and the extent of their ‘belonging’ to family, friends and school.

The researchers, writing in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, say possessing multiple positive group identifications is beneficial for young people’s mental health, as they have a wide range of social support.

Strong identification with multiple groups appears to protect young people against psychological ill-health, the researchers said.

Better mental health also leads to young people joining more social groups to which they feel they belong, creating a ‘virtuous circle’.


Miller K et al (2017) On the reciprocal effects between multiple group identifications and mental health: A longitudinal study of Scottish adolescents. British Journal of Clinical Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjc.12143

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