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Increased Social Support Correlated With Fewer Mental Health Problems in Young Adults

The coronavirus pandemic has stripped society of one of its core energy sources:

human interaction. As our social confinement drags on, mental health issues

inevitably arise. While prevalent across many age groups, these mental health

problems (MHPs) can be especially damaging to adolescents and young adults, who

learn and thrive in social environments.

One factor contributing to MHPs that has been explored in recent years is perceived

social support. Perceived social support refers to an individual's access to emotional

(e.g. empathy and compassion), informational (e.g. professional advice), and

instrumental (e.g. helping with basic tasks) help through social relationships.

A collaborative study conducted by psychiatric researchers in Canada last December

sought to determine if there is a correlation between perceived social support and

MHPs in adolescence and young adults. While previously published research suggests

that increased perceived social support is correlated with less MHPs, they did not

occur over a long period of time and did not take pre-existing MHPs into

consideration, unlike the Canadian study.

The study, which consisted of 1174 participants (48.89% Female and 51.11% Male)

from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, evaluated correlation of

perceived social support for three main MHP criteria: depressive symptoms, general

anxiety symptoms and suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts). Using proven psychiatric

measurement techniques, including response forms in which participants

self-reported their symptoms on a numeric scale, researchers documented perceived

social support of participants at age 19 and MHPs experienced at age 20. In addition to

general MHP criteria, other influential factors were also collected at ages 15 and 17,

including sex, family socieconoimc status, parental education level and family


The study reported that for every 1 standard deviation increase in perceived social

support, suicidal ideation, severe depression and anxiety symptoms decreased by

41%, 47% and 22%, respectively. Additionally, fewer suicidal attempts were recorded.

Even when pre-existing MHPs were taken into consideration, researchers still

reported a negative correlation between perceived social support and MHPs.

While the findings did display natural variations between sex and did not account for

biases in the self-reported forms, it is the first known study on perceived social

support that evaluates participants across multiple years and uses a valid

pscyhiometric data collection tool.

These findings provide a solid foundation upon which more quantitative studies can

explore the magnitude of the effects of social support on MHPs. Such investigation

may also help identify any genetic and nonenvironmental factors that contribute to

the correlation. On a more individual level, research on social support in adolescents is

important in analyzing the mental health outcomes of young adults, whose newfound

responsibility and independence can increase their likelihood of MHPs.

Works Cited:

Sara Scardera, B. (2020, December 04). Association of Social Support During

Adolescence With Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidal Ideation in Young Adults.

< https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2773539 >