Health, happiness and wellbeing for adolescents transitioning to adulthood: a systematic review of individual-level interventions for adolescents from vulnerable groups

G. Vojt, H. Thomson, M. Campbell, C. Fenton, H. Sweeting, J. McQueen, K. Skivington

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Most mental health disorders begin in late adolescence and early adulthood, and can impact on other critical outcomes of the youth–adult transition, including health and health behaviours, relationships, education and employment. Within the general population there are groups of particularly vulnerable adolescents who are at higher risk of poor health outcomes and who require additional support to make successful and healthy transitions into adulthood. These adolescents are likely to be missed in interventions implemented within a mainstream educational setting.

Review question and methods
This report presents the findings of a comprehensive systematic review of the best available evidence on interventions targeting key vulnerable groups aged 10-24 years. The main research question addressed by this review was: what is known about the impacts of non-clinical interventions on mental health, or wellbeing of vulnerable adolescents? The review is restricted to interventions delivered to individuals and complements the sister review supported by RSE looking at interventions delivered at a whole population level.The vulnerable groups included were: •Looked after and care leavers •Homeless •Young offenders •Sexually abused•Teenage parent s •Ethnic minorities•Asylum seekers and refugees•Those exposed to domestic and Intimate Partner Violence •Those living in socio-economically deprived areas •Unemployed •Those out of/excluded from school •Young carersThe review prioritised best available evidence for the synthesis on which the conclusions are based. Well conducted systematic reviews were considered strong sources of evidence. Findings from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were also used to support conclusions. Comprehensive searches were conducted to identify relevant reviews and studies in published and unpublished (grey) literature since 2005. The scope of the review was informed by two Advisory Groups.

Key findings for included vulnerable groups
There was insufficient evidence to identify interventions which clearly benefit the mental health of any of the vulnerable groups included in this review. However, a small body of evidence was identified which reported some evidence on impacts on mental health for some groups. The findings for these groups are: Adolescents who are or have been “looked after” or in foster care•This was the group for which most evidence was identified, in respect of a wide range of practical support and psychological interventions. However, the findings are conflicting, meaning that it is unclear whether or not these interventions are beneficial or harmful for mental health.•There is some, very limited, evidence that mentoring, either peer or natural (i.e. via an unrelated, older person), may benefit wellbeing and mental health for looked after adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherMental Health Foundation
Commissioning bodyThe Royal Society of Edinburgh
Number of pages136
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • mental health
  • health
  • happiness
  • wellbeing
  • adolescents
  • young people
  • vulnerable groups


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