Mental sundhed i den emergerende voksenalder

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Anton Cole
  • Ida Marie Lykke Elsborg
4. semester, Psykologi, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
In a time where the general well-being among members of society appears to be declining - especially among the younger members - it is potentially more important than ever to understand what mental health is and how it can be promoted. Such questions regarding mental health and well-being are essential to gain deeper insights into how we can create a world with healthy citizens who are able to live meaningful lives and contribute positively to society. It is only in recent times that mental health has truly come into focus in the public debate, and the same applies to the understanding of the third decade of life, the "emerging adulthood," which is a newly recognized life stage that still lacks sufficient research. Particularly in the intersection between these topics, there seems to be a lack of knowledge about (a) what broadly characterizes the life conditions of emerging adults and (b) how, based on these conditions, one can intervene to promote mental health among this target group. These are the questions we have sought to gain deeper insights into in this thesis.
Based on Jeffrey Arnett's theory of emerging adulthood, as well as evolutionary, social, and cultural psychological research, we have attempted to describe what characterizes the life conditions of today's emerging adults in the Western world. Subsequently, this knowledge has been incorporated into a set of mental health promotion principles to discuss how interventions can be implemented at the individual, group, and societal levels to promote mental health among emerging adults broadly. Our findings suggest that emerging adulthood is characterized by specific life conditions resulting from biology and evolutionary roots, societal structures, and Western cultures. Emerging adulthood as a distinct life stage is typified by instability, exploration, optimism about the future, self focus, and a feeling of being in between youth and adulthood. Furthermore, emerging adults live in an environment that is wildly different from the savannah on which humans have evolved. In many cases, this environmental mismatch is at the heart of why a significant proportion of the Western population struggle to thrive in their daily lives. Today, emerging adults live in a modern time and a global world of uncertainty, flexibility, and acceleration, which gives them problematic conditions for developing a stable identity and attaining good mental health. Furthermore, the modern way of living results in a lack of trustful relations and meaningful experiences on an everyday basis. In spite of sharing a common life stage, emerging adults have multilinear and unpredictable life courses that afford them a varying amount of resources. Still, they all have the same ability to fantasize and interpret meaning out of the events taking place in their lives. Here, narrative stories and discourses in the collective culture play an important role on a personal level and influence how they understand themselves and the world they live in.
To promote mental health for this target group, it becomes necessary for individuals, groups, and society to create a world that is able to meet human needs for a balance between rest and activity, as well as intrapersonal and interpersonal well-being. To name a few, it would be advantageous for emerging adults and society at large to accommodate human needs for proper nutrition, exercise and sleep as well as prioritizing meaningful and instructive activities that promote exploration of the self and positive social relationships. Additionally, the research seems to suggest that a more pronounced emphasis on collaboration, accepting oneself and life’s inherent struggles as well as appreciating the here-and-now can all contribute to better mental health among emerging adults. While individual emerging adults to a certain extent have agency in terms of bettering their well-being, promoting mental health at a larger scale will undoubtedly require the joint efforts of both the citizens of society and societal institutions. Seeing as interventions at the individual-, group- and societal level each have their own, inherent advantages and disadvantages, we advocate for a holistic strategy wherein mental well-being of emerging adults in Western society is promoted at all three levels.
Udgivelsesdato28 maj 2023
Antal sider107
ID: 532023886