To investigate how social support relates to mental health problems for Belgian late adolescents and young adults 15–25 years of age. Additionally, we examine changes in mental health problems between 2008 and 2013 and investigate gender differences.
Multivariate analysis of variance was used to investigate (1) psychological distress, (2) anxiety and (3) depression among 713 boys and 720 girls taken from two successive waves (2008 and 2013) of a representative sample of the Belgian population (Belgian Health Interview survey). Psychological distress was measured by the General Health Questionnaire, anxiety and depression by the Symptom Check-List-90-Revised.
Gender differences were found for psychological distress, anxiety and depression with girls reporting significantly higher scores than boys. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed that adolescents who are dissatisfied with their social contacts and experience poor social support reported more psychological distress, anxiety and depression. In addition, young adult boys (20–25 years of age) were more likely to experience psychological distress when compared to late adolescent boys (15–19 years of age). Finally, the prevalence of anxiety and depression increased substantially between 2008 and 2013 for girls and to a lesser extent for boys.
Especially girls and young people with poor social support experience mental health problems more frequently than boys and those with strong social support. Improving social support among young people may serve as a protective buffer to mental health problems.
WHO, editor. Mental health action plan 2013–2020. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2014.
OECD. Making mental health count: the social and economic costs of neglecting mental health care. Paris: OECD; 2014. CrossRef
Williams B, Pow J. Gender differences and mental health: an exploratory study of knowledge and attitudes to mental health among Scottish teenagers. Child Adolesc Mental Health. 2007;12:8–12. CrossRef
WHO. Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice : summary report. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004.
Women’s Mental Health. An evidence based review. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2000.
Beeri A, Lev-Wiesel R. Social rejection by peers: a risk factor for psychological distress. Child Adolesc Mental Health. 2012;17:216–21. CrossRef
Cheng Y, Li X, Lou C, Sonenstein FL, Kalamar A, Jejeebhoy S, et al. The association between social support and mental health among vulnerable adolescents in five cities: findings from the study of the well-being of adolescents in vulnerable environments. J Adolesc Health. 2014;55(6 Suppl):S31–8. CrossRefPubMed
Oldfield J, Humphrey N, Hebron J. The role of parental and peer attachment relationships and school connectedness in predicting adolescent mental health outcomes. Child Adolesc Ment Health. 2016;21:21–9. CrossRef
WHO. Gender disparities in mental health. In: Mental health. Ministerial Round Tables 2001, 54th World Health Assemble, 200. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2001.
Demarest S, der Heyden JV, Charafeddine R, Drieskens S, Gisle L, Tafforeau J. Methodological basics and evolution of the Belgian health interview survey 1997–2008. Archives of. Public Health. 2013;71:24.
Starcevic V, Bogojevic G, Marinkovic J. The SCL-90-R as a screening instrument for severe personality disturbance among outpatients with mood and anxiety disorders. J Personal Disord. 2000;14:199–207. CrossRef
Derogatis L. SCL-90-R: administration, scoring and procedures manual for the R(evised) version. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University, School of Medicine; 1977.
Wittchen HU, Kessler RC, Pfister H, Lieb M. Why do people with anxiety disorders become depressed? A prospective-longitudinal community study. Acta Psychiatr Scand Suppl. 2000;102:14–23.
McWilliams LA, Cox BJ, Enns MW. Self-report differentiation of anxiety and depression in a mood disorders sample. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2001;23:125–31. CrossRef
VanDyke MM, Parker JC, Smarr KL, Hewett JE, Johnson GE, Slaughter JR, et al. Anxiety in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 2004;51:408–12. CrossRef
Goldberg DP, Williams P. The general health questionnaire. Windsor, England: NFER Publishing; 1988.
Jackson C. The general health questionnaire. Occup Med (Lond). 2007;57:79. CrossRef
Statacorp. Stata statistical software: release 13. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP; 2013.
Paternoster R, Brame R, Mazerolle P, Piquero A. Using the correct statistical test for the equality of regression coefficients. Criminology. 1998;36:859–66. CrossRef
Rosenfield S, Mouzon D. Gender and mental health. In: Aneshensel CS, Phelan JC, Bierman A, editors. Handbook of the sociology of mental health: Springer Netherlands; 2013. p. 277–96. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4276-5_14.
Matud MP. Gender differences in stress and coping styles. Personal Individ Differ. 2004;37:1401–15. CrossRef
Haugen T, Johansen BT, Ommundsen Y. The role of gender in the relationship between physical activity, appearance evaluation and psychological distress. Child Adolesc Ment Health. 2014;19:24–30. CrossRef
OECD. Rising youth unemployment during the crisis. OECD social, employment and migration working papers. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 2010.
Bernardi F, Ballarino G, editors. Education, occupation and social origin: a comparative analysis of the transmission of socio-economic inequalities. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Pub; 2016.
- Gender differences in mental health problems among adolescents and the role of social support: results from the Belgian health interview surveys 2008 and 2013
Filip Van Droogenbroeck
- BioMed Central