Health Promot Int. 2023 Dec 1;38(6):daad166. doi: 10.1093/heapro/daad166.
Engagement in youth programs is a potential means to promote health and well-being across populations of young people. Safer spaces in these youth programs are likely critical in fostering positive health outcomes, but current research on the links between safer spaces and health is limited. In this exploratory study, we examined links between program safety in youth development programs and minoritized status, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and psychosomatic health complaints. Participants (N = 282; Mean age = 16.97 years; SD = 2.97) self-identified across various minority status groups, including LGBTQ (30%) and a range of perceived income levels. We tested a statistical model in which safer spaces, LGBTQ status and perceived income predicted HRQoL and health complaints in youth development program participants. LGBTQ status and lower perceived income were related to lower HRQoL and more health complaints, and safer space in youth development programs was related to better HRQoL. We also found an interaction effect, such that safer spaces in youth programs appeared to be especially beneficial for HRQoL for youth with higher incomes. Findings reinforce past research on LGBTQ status and income as factors for youth wellness and mental health. Findings also suggest that perceived safer spaces in youth development programs support better HRQoL and lower health complaints, across populations of participating youth.