Role of Social Environmental Protective Factors on Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms Among Midwestern Homeless Youth
This journal article describes a study conducted to examine how social environmental factors affect mental health outcomes of homeless youth. The study collected longitudinal data on 150 homeless youth ages 16 to 22 in two Midwestern cities in the United States. Using a social stress framework, the study examined gender, sexual orientation, and the number of times youth had run away, along with whether the youth had participated in foster care and whether the youth had been physically victimized while on the street. The framework also measured the degree to which the youth felt they had social support and positive role models in their lives. The researchers posited that runaway and homeless youth who fall into socially stigmatized categories based on their gender or sexual orientation would present with more depressive symptoms and higher levels of anxiety than their non-stigmatized counterparts in similar circumstances based on length of time on the street. They also questioned whether protective factors helped reduce poor mental health outcomes for study participants, regardless of social stigmatization status. Results revealed that numerous stressors, such as physical abuse and running away from home more frequently, were associated with greater depressive symptoms and elevated anxiety. Having mentors and family and friends from home that youth can rely on resulted in more positive social support, which subsequently lowered risk for depressive symptoms and anxiety during the second interview.