Study finds friends play vital role in teenage wellbeing

May 4, 2016, Murdoch University

Good friendships are the key to adolescent mental health, according to a new study published by Murdoch University.

Supported by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, the study was conducted by the 'How do you feel' lab, which is part of a larger project examining how young people use technology.

Results showed that adolescents were happier and experienced lower levels of sadness, jealousy and worry, in the company of their friends than with their families or being alone. Online friends were just as important as real friends.

Murdoch PhD student Bep Uink and her team conducted an "in the moment" survey using smart phones with around 100 teenagers, monitoring factors that could affect their emotional state throughout the day.

"Most studies ask people to recall their emotions retrospectively when they answer a survey at the end of the day. We were interested in capturing a real-time snapshot of the students five times a day – how they were feeling exactly at that time, who they were with, and stressors that may have affected their mood," she said.

"During the course of the study we captured a lot of information about minor upsets affecting the adolescents, which included everything from bad marks in an assignment to a fight with a partner."

"We saw that teenagers were less likely to become as emotionally affected by these sorts of stressors if they had a friend with them after the upset. This was particularly marked with the girls involved in the study."

Ms Uink said the study demonstrated the importance of teaching teenagers how to understand and develop healthy friendships.

"Students with strong, healthy friendships are more resilient to the daily stressors of life, and it is important for teenagers to learn how to move forward after a stressor – such as a fight with a friend – and to not withdraw from people," she said.

"By building positive coping styles for emotions and stress, hopefully we can help adolescents to stay on healthy emotional trajectories as they progress into adulthood."

Ms Uink, who finishes her PhD later this year, hopes one day to develop curriculum based interventions in schools for mental health.

The study, entitled "Disadvantaged youth report less negative emotion to minor stressors when with peers: An experience sampling study" was recently published on-line and is forthcoming in the International Journal of Behavioral Development.

Explore further: Social media at bedtime linked to poor sleep and poor mental health for teens

More information: B. N. Uink et al. Disadvantaged youth report less negative emotion to minor stressors when with peers: An experience sampling study, International Journal of Behavioral Development (2016). DOI: 10.1177/0165025416626516

Related Stories

Social media at bedtime linked to poor sleep and poor mental health for teens

September 29, 2015
Teenagers with high social media use at bedtime suffer disturbed sleep, which in turn leads to depressed mood, according to new research from a Murdoch University PhD candidate.

Irish teenagers unable to identify depression

July 20, 2015
Many Irish teenagers are unable to identify signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, according to new research on mental health literacy among adolescents conducted by psychologists at Trinity College Dublin.

Fun and friends key to getting teens off the couch

December 15, 2015
Forms of exercise that prioritises having fun, group activities and keeping healthy rather than competition could be the key to getting WA teenagers more active, research suggests.

New study finds 'Your friends were right! You did change after you started dating'

December 2, 2015
A new study published in Developmental Psychology put to test the hypothesis that adolescents become less similar to their friends and more similar to romantic partners after they start a new romantic relationship. Results ...

Strong evidence for double standards among adolescents regarding sex

April 22, 2016
Adolescence is a developmental period of immense social, physical, and emotional change. In the midst of it all, both boys and girls face double standards regarding how peers react to sexual experiences, new Penn State research ...

Recommended for you

Serious loneliness spans the adult lifespan but there is a silver lining

December 18, 2018
In recent years, public health officials have warned about a rising epidemic of loneliness, with rates of loneliness reportedly doubling over the past 50 years. In a new study, researchers at University of California San ...

Junk food diet raises depression risk, researchers find

December 18, 2018
A diet of fast food, cakes and processed meat increases your risk of depression, according to researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Looking on bright side may reduce anxiety, especially when money is tight

December 17, 2018
Trying to find something good in a bad situation appears to be particularly effective in reducing anxiety the less money a person makes, possibly because people with low incomes have less control over their environment, according ...

Levels of gene-expression-regulating enzyme altered in brains of people with schizophrenia

December 14, 2018
A study using a PET scan tracer developed at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has identified, for the first time, epigenetic differences between the brains of individuals ...

Self-perception and reality seem to line-up when it comes to judging our own personality

December 14, 2018
When it comes to self-assessment, new U of T research suggests that maybe we do have a pretty good handle on our own personalities after all.

Video game players frequently exposed to graphic content may see world differently

December 13, 2018
People who frequently play violent video games are more immune to disturbing images than non-players, a UNSW-led study into the phenomenon of emotion-induced blindness has shown.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.