Middle and high schoolers in Coös County have a strong sense of community, but higher rates of depression than their peers in southern New Hampshire. That's according to a study released Monday by the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH.
In 2008, researchers began surveying hundreds of young people in the North Country. With help from local school districts and social media, they tracked as many as they could through graduation and early adulthood.
Dr. Eleanor Jaffee, who managed the study, says those with a strong sense of community did better.
"Their well-being, in terms of future mental health and substance use and also their desire to return to the region in the future, all kind of revolves around this idea of community attachment."
Despite this, youth reported not having a voice in community decision-making.
"Young people did not feel like they had a seat at the table in talking about the future of the region," Jaffee notes, "And that's where we feel like there's maybe some work to do.
Researchers also found higher rates of depressive symptoms among teens than in other regions of the state and country.
"What was really striking was that the relationship between depressed moods and substance abuse later was really strong among Coös youth," explains Dr. Karen Van Gundy, a sociologist who helped with the study.
Van Gundy says her findings suggest the need for programs that strengthen community ties and mental health among young people, as a deterrent to substance abuse and as a way to attract people back to the region after they've graduated from college.
UNH researchers are in the middle of a similar 10-year study among young people in Southern New Hampshire.