Belfast / Glasgow social network analysis collaboration

The friendships and social connections between people can have a powerful influence on the way people think, feel, and behave. Friendships can be particularly important in adolescence because this is the time of life where people start to think about their own identity, become more independent from their parents, and make decisions over what behaviours and habits they develop, like if they will start to drink, smoke or take drugs. The influence of adolescent friendships on mental health and health risk behaviours could set down patterns that people carry with them through their adult life.

We are collaborating with the Northern Ireland Drug and Alcohol Research Network, School of Sociology Education and Social Work Queen's University Belfast to study how friendships and social connections can influence health behaviours and mental health outcomes. The Belfast Youth Development Study, Adolescent Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe, and Peers and Levels of Stress studies collected information on health outcomes and behaviours among post primary school children in the West of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

All these studies also collected information on friendships within the schools. We can use this information to look at how factors like friendship groups, cliques, popular pupils, and social isolation may influence health behaviour and mental wellbeing.

We are currently working on studies looking at:

  • how parents and peers can both influence drinking frequency
  • if ‘peer pressure’ or ‘choosing similar friends’ are good explanations for ecstasy use
  • how friendships influence mental health
  • how social isolation and friendship are related to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. 


Robert Young

Queen’s University Belfast
Kathryn Higgins 
Tara O’Neill  
Julie-Ann Jordan   

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit logo 800 wide