Agency and mental health: A transition to adulthood paradox

March 2, 2015


  • J. Scott Brown

This study utilizes nationally representative survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 13,592) to develop an empirical conception of the traditional treatment of health agency focused on two social psychological constructs of ‘‘subjective vitality’’ and a forward-looking orientation (‘‘optimism’’). Adolescents with higher health-based agency early in the transition to adulthood have significantly higher status attainment (occupational and educational) outcomes, but early mental health advantages disappear over the transition to adulthood. This suggests that while subjective beliefs about health agency put adolescents on trajectories toward higher socioeconomic status, they also set them up for declines in mental health due to unachieved expectations. 

Society and Mental Health, 5(3), 163-181.  doi:10.1177/2156869315573632

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  • Mental Health
  • Research Methods