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A new study has suggested that adolescents who dress according to the customs of their own ethnic group are less likely to have subsequent mental health problems as compared to those who don't.
The findings are based on a study, which looked at 11-14 year old white British and Bangladeshi pupils taken from a representative sample of schools in East London [Images], where levels of population diversity are among the highest in the UK.
Researchers assessed cultural identity of the pupils via their preference for friends and clothes from their own, or other cultural groups, reports BMJ.
In a follow-up study two years later, a number of the same pupils were resurveyed and completed measures of mental health.
Results showed that having friends from their own and other cultures or only having friends from their own culture made no difference to mental health.
However, clothing choices did make a difference.
Researchers found that Bangladeshi pupils who wore traditional clothing were significantly less likely to have mental health problems as compared to those whose dressing style was a mix of traditional and white British/ North American tastes.
When the findings were further evaluated in terms of gender, this only held true for the girls.
Researchers, however, found that white British pupils wore a mix of clothes from their own and other cultures had relatively good mental health.
Young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems and their identity is often bound up in clothing and friendship choices, say the researchers.
They added that cultural integration is the healthiest option for young people living in a multicultural society, but pressures to change lifestyle, attitudes, or behaviours could be very stressful.
Therefore, they concluded that retaining cultural identity through clothing might be important for good mental health.
The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
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