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Objective: In this study, we explored whether social support varied with ethnic group in young people, and if it explained ethnic differences in prevalence of psychological distress. Methods: A representative sample of 2790 East London adolescents (11-14 years) completed a classroom-based self-report questionnaire for this cross sectional survey. Social support was assessed using the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). Mental health was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire (SMFQ). Results: High levels of social support were reported by most participants, with some variation by ethnic group and gender. Participants reporting low family and overall social support had an increased likelihood of psychological distress compared with those who reported high support. Low support from friends, family and overall was also associated with depressive symptoms. These relationships did not alter with adjustment for ethnic group. Conclusions: This study identified an independent association between different sources of social support and mental health in a young, ethnically diverse sample. Differences in social support did not explain ethnic differences in psychological distress. © Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2006.

Original publication




Journal article


Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

Publication Date





755 - 760