Scientists find connection between adolescent personality and the risk of serious mental illness
Our teenage years are a time of raging hormones, biological changes and emotional flashpoints, so it may come as no surprise that our adolescent personality could be an indicator of our mental health in later life.
A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry by Joseph F Hayes et al. looked at more than one million Swedish men from when they enrolled in the Swedish military in their late teens between January 1974 and December 1997, and then analysed the data for all inpatient treatment episodes for these men between 1974 and the end of December 2011.
The researchers found that levels of emotional stability are an indicator of serious mental illness (SMI), with those who were less emotionally stable – a common thread in adolescence – being more likely to develop a SMI. Tellingly, they also found social maturity was an indicator for bipolar disorder, with those at either end of the scale – less socially mature or very socially mature – being more likely to develop bipolar disorder.
As with any study, there are limitations on how far we can generalise from these results, particularly with an all-male, all-Swedish, all-military sample. But reactions to the study have expanded the dialogue about behavioural wellbeing and adolescent experiences.