Factors that influence young people's mental health help-seeking behaviour: a study based on the Health Belief Model

J Adv Nurs. 2014 Nov;70(11):2577-87. doi: 10.1111/jan.12423. Epub 2014 Apr 9.


Aim: To identify key predictors and moderators of mental health 'help-seeking behavior' in adolescents.

Background: Mental illness is highly prevalent in adolescents and young adults; however, individuals in this demographic group are among the least likely to seek help for such illnesses. Very little quantitative research has examined predictors of help-seeking behaviour in this demographic group.

Design: A cross-sectional design was used.

Methods: A group of 180 volunteers between the ages of 17-25 completed a survey designed to measure hypothesized predictors and moderators of help-seeking behaviour. Predictors included a range of health beliefs, personality traits and attitudes. Data were collected in August 2010 and were analysed using two standard and three hierarchical multiple regression analyses.

Findings: The standard multiple regression analyses revealed that extraversion, perceived benefits of seeking help, perceived barriers to seeking help and social support were direct predictors of help-seeking behaviour. Tests of moderated relationships (using hierarchical multiple regression analyses) indicated that perceived benefits were more important than barriers in predicting help-seeking behaviour. In addition, perceived susceptibility did not predict help-seeking behaviour unless individuals were health conscious to begin with or they believed that they would benefit from help.

Conclusion: A range of personality traits, attitudes and health beliefs can predict help-seeking behaviour for mental health problems in adolescents. The variable 'Perceived Benefits' is of particular importance as it is: (1) a strong and robust predictor of help-seeking behaviour; and (2) a factor that can theoretically be modified based on health promotion programmes.

Keywords: adolescent health; health promotion; health psychology; mental health; nursing; quantitative approaches.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Models, Psychological
  • New South Wales
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Young Adult