Youth Activities as a Protective Factor

April 01, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

Research in Canada provides evidence that engaging adolescents in personally meaningful activities may protect them from suicide ideation and risk even if they have other risk factors such as depression, low self-esteem, and a lack of social support. The authors suggest that interventions that engage youth in such activities could protect youth while avoiding the stigma that can be associated with programs that focus on suicide or mental health.

This research on secondary school students (13–19 years old) found that higher levels of  engagement in meaningful activities were correlated with a lower risk of meeting the clinical definition of suicidal thoughts and risk even if the youth had other risk factors (e.g., depression). The authors cautioned that these activities must be personally meaningful to the youth – that is, the youth must feel that the activities are, for example, important and difficult to give up. The authors also included two important caveats to their research: (1) some youth have suicidal thoughts despite high levels of meaningful engagement and (2) longitudinal research is necessary to ensure that engagement in meaningful activities actually leads to a reduction in risk.

This summary is based on: Armstrong, L. L., & Manion, I. G. (2015). Meaningful youth engagement as a protective factor for youth suicidal ideation. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 25(1), 20–27.