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Promoting positive mental health, particularly through enhancing competencies (such as prosocial behaviors and learning skills), may help prevent the development of health risk behaviors in adolescence and thus support future well-being. Few studies have examined how mental health competencies in childhood are associated with adolescent health risk behaviors, which could inform preventative approaches. Using UK Millennium Cohort Study data (n = 10,142), we examined how mental health competence (MHC) measured at the end of elementary school (11 years) is associated with self-reported use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, alcohol, illegal drugs, antisocial behavior, and sexual contact with another young person at age 14 years. A latent measure of MHC was used, capturing aspects of prosocial behavior and learning skills, categorized as high MHC, high-moderate MHC, moderate MHC, and low MHC. Logistic and multinomial regression estimated odds ratios and relative risk ratios for binary and categorical outcomes, respectively, before and after adjusting for confounders. Weights accounted for sample design and attrition and multiple imputation for item missingness. Those with low, moderate, or high-moderate MHC at age 11 years were more likely to have taken part in health risk behaviors at age 14 years compared with those with high MHC. The largest associations were seen for low MHC with binge drinking (relative risk ratio: 1.6 [95% confidence interval: 1.1-2.4]), having tried cigarettes (odds ratio: 2.2 [95% confidence interval: 1.6-3.1]) and tried illegal drugs (odds ratio: 2.0 [95% confidence interval: 1.3-3.1) after adjusting for confounders (which attenuated results but largely maintained significant findings). MHC in late childhood is associated with health risk behaviors in midadolescence. Interventions that increase children's MHC may support healthy development during adolescence, with the potential to improve health and well-being through to adulthood. Copyright © 2020 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.]


Emeline Rougeaux, Steven Hope, Russell M Viner, Jessica Deighton, Catherine Law, Anna Pearce. Is Mental Health Competence in Childhood Associated With Health Risk Behaviors in Adolescence? Findings From the UK Millennium Cohort Study. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. 2020 Nov;67(5):677-684

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PMID: 32580874

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