Positive childhood experiences can boost mental health and reduce depression and anxiety in teens

On the website for Simon Fraser University, writer Jeff Hodson has this article on the latest research showing the relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and depression and anxiety—and, in this study, the converse relationship between positive childhood experiences and better mental wellbeing: 

A new study led by Hasina Samji, a professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, explored the role of modifiable community- and societal-level factors in youth mental health and well-being.

The study drew from Samji’s 2022 Youth Development Instrument survey of more than 8,800 Grade 11 students in B.C. schools. Data was collected from January to March 2022 during the fifth wave of the pandemic, a time that included the highest number of daily COVID-19 case counts.

Students were asked to note their number of positive and adverse experiences (up to age 18), the degree to which they experienced depression and anxiety symptoms, and to rank their mental wellbeing and life satisfaction.

According to Samji, having more positive childhood experiences was associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, and better life satisfaction and mental health. Conversely, people with a higher number of adverse childhood experiences had more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and poorer life satisfaction and mental health.

Adults with four or more adverse childhood experiences are four times more likely to experience depression and low life satisfaction, three times more likely to experience anxiety and are 30 times more likely at attempt suicide than people with no adverse childhood experiences. . . . 

Mental illness, Samji explains, is not randomly distributed in the populations, but follows a socio-economic gradient. The study therefore recommends systemic changes to provide extra supports to families, by institutions, (justice, health, schools), to increase positive childhood experiences and reduce adverse experiences.”

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