Mental health and stress : a latent class analysis of mental health continuum among young adults
Positive mental health refers to a complete state of flourishing, as well as being free of psychopathology. Positive mental health further entails emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Positive mental health is characterized by a continuum − from languishing at the bottom to flourishing at the top, with moderate mental health in the middle. This study explored the protective value of positive mental health against stress and psychological distress in young adults in South Africa. For example, flourishing was reported to reduce the risk of psychological distress in people with a history of childhood maltreatment. Stress is defined as an unbalanced interaction between a person and his or her environment, where the person experiences the demand as threatening (event load), while they simultaneously feel that they do not have the resources to respond adequately to this demand (personal vulnerability). This combination of life demand and lack of resources is called stress overload. The debilitating effects of stress include cardiovascular disease and psychological distress, as indicated by anxiety, insomnia, depression, social dysfunction, and somatic symptoms. A sample of 947 young adults from South Africa participated in the study (male = 55.6%; female = 44.4%, average age = 24). Young adults face challenges such as starting a career, studying at a tertiary institution, finding a partner and starting a family. The social context within which these young adults live, shapes their functioning. Countries of the global South, including South Africa, are plagued by violence, poverty, corruption, illness, and unemployment. This adds to the challenges that young adults face, and places this group at a higher risk of experiencing stress. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the protective value of positive mental health against stress, by exploring how the person-centred latent classes of the mental health continuum predict individual differences in the experience of stress and psychological distress among young adults. This study employed a quantitative survey design. The Mental Health Continuum Short Form, Stress Overload Scale and the General Health Questionnaire were administered to participants. Latent class analysis was used to identify unobserved groups based on individual responses to the 14 items of the mental health continuum. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was then used to explore differences between the groups with regard to stress and psychological distress. Four latent groups emerged from the data: flourishing, languishing, socially disenfranchised and socially and emotionally frustrated. The flourishing group had significantly lower scores for personal vulnerability and psychological distress (which manifests through anxiety, insomnia, depression, social dysfunction, and somatic symptoms) compared to the other groups. These results show that flourishing is a protective factor against stress and psychological distress in young adults. Thus, more attention should be devoted to the prevention of stress and psychological distress by improving the positive mental health of young adults.
- Health Sciences