Exploring factors influencing youth mental health

by Dr Jess Stubbing, Teina Rihari, Dr Anne Bardsley and Sir Peter Gluckman

What we know and don’t know about the determinants of young people’s mental health.

Youth mental health is complex. This report and the accompanying infographic highlight how youth mental health challenges develop over time and the interlinking factors that contribute.

Download report: Exploring factors influencing youth mental health

Download infographic: Youth Mental Health Infographic

Media release: Cross sector approach needed for youth mental health

The authors, Dr Jess Stubbing, Teina Rihari, Dr Anne Bardsley and Sir Peter Gluckman, identify some of the many factors that might influence a young person’s development and mental well-being.

About the report

They say a cross-sector approach to supporting youth mental health is needed.

Some factors are introduced very early in a young person’s life – for example, brain development begins prenatally and continues throughout childhood and adolescence. Other factors might play a much bigger role in the lives of adolescents – for example, the challenges of transitioning from secondary school.

Depending on how young people experience these influences, their mental health may be protected or they may be more likely to experience mental-health challenges. For example, supportive family members in the home environment can be protective for young people’s mental health. For others, limited support might mean they do not experience the positive mental-health benefits of family.

Others still might experience unsupportive environments or family violence where their household could harm their mental health.

Depending on a young person’s identity(ies), these factors may influence them very differently. For example, rangatahi Māori, Pacific and migrant youth may experience racism and discrimination that affects their mental health. Young people with disabilities may find it much harder to access the support they need to thrive.

No young person’s mental health is the result of any single factor but rather the complex ways these interact and overlap. Such factors as colonisation, migration, intergenerational trauma and the Covid-19 pandemic can also have an influence.

About the infographic

To understand how these factors work together to influence youth mental health, visit our interactive infographic.

The infographic covers three life stages – early childhood, childhood and adolescence. It maps multiple factors across eight broad areas, including biology, contextual, digital, economic, education, family, peer and personal domains.

It also allows the user to look at socio-historic context by factoring in Covid-19, migration, colonisation and intergenerational trauma.

The user can switch the different domains and context factors on and off to see how the factors interact and develop over a young person’s life.

It is designed to be used on a desktop computer using Adobe Reader 8.1 or above, available for free here.

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