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Can Social Support be Protective against Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents from 24 Low- and Middle-Income Countries?

Haowen Wu1, Zhanli Yi1, Tianyou Guo2,*
1 School of Government, Institute of Urban Governance, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518052, China
2 Body-Brain-Mind Laboratory School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518052, China
* Corresponding Author: Tianyou Guo. Email: gtyou168@126.com

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion https://doi.org/10.32604/ijmhp.2022.021505

Received 18 January 2022; Accepted 19 April 2022; Published online 09 August 2022


Background: Adolescents are highly vulnerable to depressive symptoms worldwide partially because of limited social supports. However, it still remains largely unknown regarding the associations between social support(s) and depressive symptoms among adolescents living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The aim of this study aimed to explore the associations between different types of social support and depressive symptoms in adolescents from LMICs. Methods: Data were retrieved from the Global School-based Health Survey (GSHS) in which 92,551 adolescents (50.6% females) were included with mean of 15.6 years. Depressive symptoms in the past one month as the dependent variable were measured in combination with social support (was measured by “During the past 30 days, how often were most of the students in your school kind and helpful?”). Multivariable logistic regression and meta-analysis of country-wise estimates were performed to investigate the associations between social support and depressive symptoms, and the heterogeneity of the associations across the countries, respectively. Results: The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 30.9% of adolescents from LMICs. Peer support and parental connectedness were two major factors that were significantly associated with depression symptoms in adolescents. However, the associations of peer support and parental connectedness with depressive symptoms were significant in males and females, respectively. The country-wise analysis indicated that varied inconsistency (small to large) across the associations of peer support and parental connectedness with depressive symptoms in adolescents. Conclusion: Results in this study provides multi-national evidence of the protective roles of social support against depressive symptoms among adolescents. However, the association between social support and depression symptoms may be moderated by sex and types of social support. Although we found that social support may be an important protective factor against depressive symptoms in adolescents from LMICs, specifically designed interventions should be implemented based on sex difference and country difference.


Peer support; parental supervision; parental connectedness; parental bonding; depressive symptoms; adolescents; low- and middle-income countries
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