What affects teens’ wellbeing?

People during #adolescence, have a higher prevalence of consuming psychoactive substances, such as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, and developing #mental health problems. Co-morbidity of substance use with subjective wellbeing and mental health problems is consistently demonstrated in epidemiological surveys.

Micro-systems, such as schools, families, and peer networks are the most proximal environments to young people which exert a direct influence on health and wellbeing. Close relationships with family are almost universally discussed as protective for substance use, subjective wellbeing, and mental health. Whereas, peer relationships have been considered simultaneously as both risk and protective factors.


The development of capabilities to build positive relationships elsewhere can be enabled or prevented by interactions within the family environment. For example, young people who don't have supportive family environments might engage less with schooling, or develop fewer good quality friendships which therefore affects their health and wellbeing.

Young people who perceive limited closeness to family members may become more influenced by peers than by family members. Whereas, adolescents who report that their parents are usually aware of their whereabouts are less likely to engage in substance misuse. Therefore, less positive parent-child relationships exacerbate potentially negative influences in adolescent social relationships.

The connectedness to peers has differential impacts among subgroups of young people. However, substance use outcomes are high among young people with low school connectedness but high connectedness to peers. Furthermore, connectedness to peers is not associated with better mental health in the absence of school connectedness. Young people who report less family support and have a high degree of support from friends show increased mental health symptoms, as well as a higher risk of cannabis use.


Moreover, school systems can influence young people’s substance use and mental health. If school social environments are structured in a manner which minimizes boundaries between teachers and pupils, there will be an increased engagement with norms and practices of schools, and in turn, better health and wellbeing.


Schools cannot entirely compensate for the effects of external systems, but they can provide young people with some insulation from social disadvantage through providing opportunities for interaction with a mixed peer group and mutually respectful adult-child relationships. Relationships with school staff are more positively associated with mental health and subjective wellbeing for young people with less family support.

Source: School, Peer and Family Relationships and Adolescent Substance Use, Subjective Wellbeing and Mental Health Symptoms in Wales: a Cross Sectional Study.
G. F. Moore et al. 2017
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