Teenagers with the feeling of optimism, happiness, self-esteem, belongingness, and love, were more likely to reach their 20s and 30s in good cardiometabolic health compared to teens with fewer of these positive psychological assets, a new study has shown.
According to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, fostering positive psychological assets in teenagers may help prevent cardiometabolic disease in adulthood and may also play a role in addressing health inequities.
The study mentioned that the way teens — especially Black youth — feel about their lives may impact their cardiometabolic health risk as adults.
“We learned a lot in the last few decades about the impact of discrimination and other social risks youth of color face that may explain their elevated rates of cardiometabolic disease, however, much less attention is paid to the inherent strengths they possess and the ways those strengths may be leveraged to advance health equity,” said lead study author Farah Qureshi, ScD, MHS, an assistant professor at the US-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Researchers identified five mental health assets associated with better cardiometabolic health outcomes based on survey responses when participants were teenagers: optimism, happiness, self-esteem, belonging, and feeling loved.
The study found that about 55 percent of youth had zero to one positive mental health asset, while 29 percent had two to three assets and 16 percent had four to five assets.
As young adults, only 12 percent of participants maintained cardiometabolic health over time, and white youth were more likely to maintain good health later in life compared to Black or Latino youth.
Teens with four to five positive mental health assets were 69 percent more likely to maintain positive cardiometabolic health as young adults.
While psychological assets were beneficial to all racial and ethnic groups, Black youth experienced the greatest health benefits, according to the study.
Black teens also reported having more positive mental health assets than the youth of any other racial or ethnic group.
Despite having the most assets and reaping the most health benefits from them, there were still racial disparities in cardiometabolic health in adulthood. Black individuals were the least likely to maintain good cardiometabolic health over time, said the study.
“This work suggests that early investments in youth mental health may be a critical new frontier in the advancement of cardiometabolic health equity,” Qureshi said.