Increasing Positive Affect in Adolescence Could Lead to Improved Health and Well-Being in Adulthood

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.

Adolescents with high positive affect may have improved physical and mental health as adults, according to a recent study published in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine.

Positive affect is the experience of pleasurable emotions, such as happiness, joy, excitement, and calm. Research on adults has shown that positive affect is associated with healthier behaviors and decreased risk of chronic diseases, but data are limited in adolescents. Given that adolescence is a critical time for establishing healthy mindsets and behaviors, it represents a key period for interventions aimed at setting people on a healthier life course.

In this study, researchers used data from a prospective, representative sample of approximately 10,000 U.S. adolescents in grades 7–12 (aged about 15–18) in the mid-1990s who were followed into adulthood. Participants reported on aspects of their background, health, and well-being at several time points throughout the study.

The results show that adolescents with higher increases in positive affect scored higher on several outcomes within each of the categories, even after controlling for demographic and other variables that may bias the results. One of the biggest effects was seen in mental health, where positive affect was associated with a lower likelihood of ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, and stress.

The study suggests that interventions designed to improve positive affect may have enduring impacts into adulthood, though the researchers note the limitations in using self-reported data and the possibility of additional confounding factors that they didn’t consider.

The study’s authors wrote, “Our findings suggest that targeting positive affect during adolescence, a critical developmental phase for acquiring health assets and establishing healthy mindsets, is a promising point of intervention that might enhance the trajectory of health/well-being in adulthood.”

Source: MedicalXpress

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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