Topic 3 Interrelations among individual, social, and environmental level risk and protective factors for mental health difficulties triggered by health emergencies and crisis situations

Characteristics of protective and risk factors (e.g. ACAY, 2015; NIDA, 2020; Hawkins et al., 1992; SAMSHA, 2015; https://nbhc.ca/news/protective-and-risk-factors-explained):

  • Risk and protective factors are multidimensional – they exist in at individual and environmental level.
  • Some risk and protective factors will remain constant throughout one’s lifespan (static) while others may change (temporal).
  • All people have some combination of risk and protective factors.
  • Many factors are related to multiple outcomes.
  • Outcomes of risk and protective factors vary with regard to many other factors within (e.g. age) and outside the person (e.g. living conditions).
  • Different factors have a greater or lesser influence on behaviour at different stages in a person’s life.
  • Outcomes of some risk and protective factors are general (e.g. related to health in general, or diverse health problems), while of others are pretty specific (e.g. related to only on health problem).

Characteristics of protective and risk factors (continuation):

  • There is cumulative effect of risk factors – the more risk factors a person has, the greater the likelihood they will have a given health problem.
  • There is cumulative effect of protective factors – the more protective factors a person has, the greater the likelihood they will lessen/buffer/ balance the effect of risk factors for a given health problem.
  • Person with the same set of risk factors will probably not experience the same difficulties.
  • Exposure to even a significant number of risk factors does not necessarily mean that health problem will certainly occur.
  • Absence of risk factors do not mean that person will never develop health problem.

We still know little about how to build accurate individualised risk prediction (Danese, Smith, Chitsabesan and Dubicka, 2020).

There is no standard, empirically verified set of risk or protective factors to assess specific outcomes since these factors are highly context-specific (The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2021).  

Representation of the interaction effect of the potential risk and protective factors for mental health difficulties in childhood and adolescence