Long-term Effects of Adolescent Social Support on Young Adult Depression and Suicide Risk
Coifman, Jessica Ilana
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<bold>Background:</bold> Suicide and depression in adolescence and young adulthood are major public health concerns. This study were examined the influence of social support in adolescence (sense of support, amount of support, availability of support) on adolescence and young adult emotional distress (suicide risk and depression). The potential moderating effects of social support on the relationship between adolescent emotional distress and young adult emotional distress were explored. <bold>Methods:</bold> The study sample included 568 participants, recruited by the Reconnecting Youth Program, who were in high school, identified as at-risk for school failure/dropout and followed into young adulthood. Data were collected in adolescence and young adulthood using items adapted from established measures for three psychosocial assessments. Each assessment asked an array of questions pertaining to adolescent/young adult health risks, such as suicide risk, depression, stress and substance abuse. Preliminary analyses included descriptive analysis of study variables and socio-demographics. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to test for the influence of three indicators of adolescent social support on emotional distress outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood, controlling for potential confounders. Moderating effects of adolescent social support on the relationship between adolescent and young adult emotional distress were examined by calculating separate interaction terms for each support variable and indicator of adolescent emotional distress. <bold>Results:</bold> Results were similar to other research that has evidenced both the direct and moderating effects of social support on emotional distress. In adolescence, lower levels of social support for all measures were associated with greater emotional distress over and above other predictors. Higher amount of support and sense of support in adolescence predicted lower depression in young adulthood and higher sense of support predicted lower suicide risk in young adulthood. High availability of support in adolescence reduced the effect of adolescent depression and suicide risk on emotional distress outcomes in the transition to young adulthood. <bold>Conclusions:</bold> Not only are low levels of social support associated with higher levels of depression and suicide risk in adolescence, social support in adolescence independently predicted emotional distress outcomes in young adulthood. Given the impact of perceived social support on emotional distress in this transitional period, the design of interventions should focus on increasing adolescent social support.
- Health services