School context, friendship ties and adolescent mental health: A multilevel analysis of the Korean Youth Panel Survey (KYPS)

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Research on the social determinants of health suggests that interpersonal networks play a critical role in facilitating individual mental and physical well-being. Prior studies also indicate that ecological or contextual factors contribute to positive health outcomes. This study extends prior research by examining the factors associated with adolescent health in an Asian context. Based on the multilevel analysis of the Korean Youth Panel Survey (2006 & 2007), a longitudinal project funded by the Korean government, it investigates some of the key variables related to the mental health of Korean students. Much of previous research focuses on the functions of social capital. This study contributes to the social epidemiology literature by investigating the possible downside of network ties. Specifically, it asks whether having delinquent friends is associated with negative mental health experiences. In addition, little research has been conducted concerning the associations between adolescent health outcomes and school characteristics. This study moves in that direction by examining the relationship between mental well-being of students and a variety of school related variables (e.g., subjective attitude toward school and quality of relationship with peers and teachers). Hierarchical linear modeling shows that, among the social capital control variables, being properly integrated into the family and frequent peer interaction significantly add to mental health. At the individual (student) level only, ties to delinquent friends are negatively associated with mental health, while at both individual and contextual levels, school characteristics are positively related to adolescent subjective well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research (“Exploring the Social Determinants of Health in the Developing World”) was partly supported by a grant ( #2014S1A52A03066021 ) from the National Research Foundation of Korea . I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their critical and helpful feedback on earlier versions of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Adolescent health
  • Friendship ties
  • Korea
  • School context
  • Social capital


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