Because little is known about long-term effects of adolescent protective factors across multiple health domains, we examined associations between adolescent connectedness and multiple health-related outcomes in adulthood.
We used weighted data from Waves I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 14 800). Linear and logistic models were used to examine associations between family and school connectedness in adolescence and self-reported health risk behaviors and experiences in adulthood, including emotional distress, suicidal thoughts and attempts, physical violence victimization and perpetration, intimate partner physical and sexual violence victimization, multiple sex partners, condom use, sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis, prescription drug misuse, and other illicit drug use.
In multivariable analyses, school connectedness in adolescence had independent protective associations in adulthood, reducing emotional distress and odds of suicidal ideation, physical violence victimization and perpetration, multiple sex partners, STI diagnosis, prescription drug misuse, and other illicit drug use. Similarly, family connectedness had protective effects for emotional distress, all violence indicators, including intimate partner violence, multiple sex partners, STI diagnosis, and both substance use indicators. Compared to individuals with low scores for each type of connectedness, having high levels of both school and family connectedness was associated with 48% to 66% lower odds of health risk behaviors and experiences in adulthood, depending on the outcome.
Family and school connectedness may have long-lasting protective effects across multiple health outcomes related to mental health, violence, sexual behavior, and substance use. Increasing both family and school connectedness during adolescence has the potential to promote overall health in adulthood.