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Your Teachers May Have Been Key to Your Adult Mental Health

MONDAY, Nov. 2, 2020 (Health Day News) -- Great teachers can make a big difference in their students' long-term health, research shows.

Teenagers who had good, supportive relationships with their teachers became healthier adults, according to a new report.

"This research suggests that improving students' relationships with teachers could have important, positive and long-lasting effects beyond just academic success," said study author Jinho Kim. He is an assistant professor of health policy and management at Korea University in Seoul.

"It could also have important health implications in the long run," Kim said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.

For the study, Kim analyzed data from nearly 20,000 participants in a U.S. health study, including 3,400 pairs of siblings. That study followed participants from seventh grade into early adulthood. The teens answered a variety of questions about whether they had experienced trouble getting along with other students or teachers, and whether their friends or teachers cared about them.

In adulthood, the participants were asked about physical and mental health. The study recorded measures of physical health, including blood pressure and body mass index, an estimate of body fat based on height and weight.

The analysis found that participants who had better relationships with teachers and peers also had better physical and mental health in their mid-20s. When Kim looked at pairs of siblings (as a way to control for family background), only the link between student-teacher relationships and adult health remained significant.

Past research had suggested that teens' peer relationships could be connected to adult health outcomes, possibly because poor relationships can lead to chronic stress, which raises the risk of future health problems, Kim said. It might be that other factors, including different family backgrounds, contributed both to relationship problems in teens and to poor health in adulthood.

Kim recommended that schools invest in training teachers on how to build warm, supportive relationships with students.

"This is not something that most teachers receive much training in," he said, "but it should be."

The findings were published online Oct. 29 in the journal School Psychology.

More information

The American Psychological Association offers resources on helping teens cope with stress.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Oct. 29, 2020

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