Weak Family Ties a Concern for Youth Mental Health Finds New Study

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Chennai, June 20, 2024: A new report released today by the Sapien Labs Centre for Human Brain and Mind at Krea University, India, sheds light on the intricate relationship between family dynamics and mental well-being among young adults in India. Findings show that closer relationships with family members are associated with higher levels of mental well-being, including improved social self and cognitive functioning.

Overall, younger generations reported lower levels of family closeness compared to older generations. Strikingly, the downward trend in family closeness with younger age was much more dramatic in those responding in English, who had higher income levels on average, compared to those responding in Hindi, who had lower income levels. Correspondingly, young adults who were Hindi-speaking also reported substantially better mental well-being compared to their wealthier English-speaking counterparts. Altogether, young adults with a family income of 1 lakh or less but with close family relationships had better mental well-being than those with a family income of 10 lakhs or more who were not close to their family.

“While increasing income levels is crucial, our findings highlight that family closeness plays an out-sized role in contributing to mental wellbeing among the youth. The differences between language groups point to a generational decline in family closeness that may be cultural in nature and to the potential negative consequences of trading off family closeness for income. Acknowledging and understanding the possible role of culture (language) and the environment on the strength of family relationships may be key to fully leveraging the potential of India’s younger generation.” – Dr. Shailender Swaminathan, Director, Sapien Labs Centre for Human Brain and Mind, India.

Together with the Centre’s earlier research, the report points to the need to understand contributing risk factors for mental health, which can inform preventive strategies that can be adopted by parents, schools and policymakers.

The report draws on data from the Global Mind Project, and is based on data from 62,832 respondents across 36 states and Union Territories collected between January 2022 and August 2023.

The Sapien Labs Centre for the Human Brain and Mind in India is a collaboration between Sapien Labs (USA) and Krea University, with an aim to pursue research and learning related to the human brain and mind. The Centre plans to extend this critical work beyond English-speaking participants from India, to include other language groups. Subsequent work will examine the role of other risk factors such as processed food consumption, exercise and family relationships on the mental well-being of adolescents and youth, in addition to smartphone access and use.

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