Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Researchers refer to "risk factors" as factors that can cause obstacles to overcoming adversity. These factors can be individual, familial or social in nature. Some people develop mental health problems with few risk factors, while others develop a disorder with the accumulation of several risk factors. People's life courses are very different, therefore making it difficult to predict what would trigger a disorder for one person but not for the other.

Individual risk factors can be innate or acquired. Therefore, a person may come into the world with the risk factors, or they may have them as a result of life experiences. An innate factor is present from birth (e.g., intellectual or physical disability at birth). An acquired factor develops over time through experience and learning (e.g., alcohol abuse).

  • Personality (what makes people individual with respect to their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors)
  • Biology (e.g., premature birth, physical disability, certain learning disabilities, etc.)
  • Age (most mental health disorders develop during childhood and adolescence)
  • Gender (girl, boy, non-binary, etc. e.g., girls have more internal disorders, while boys have more external disorders)
  • Academic failure
  • Substance use (alcohol, drugs)

  • Domestic violence
  • Poor relations with parents or legal guardians
  • The death of a family member or friend
  • Physical/sexual/emotional neglect or abuse
  • Divorce of parents
  • Poverty
  • Natural disasters (e.g. hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.)
  • Experiences of racism and discrimination
  • Violence in schools
  • Violence in the neighbourhood


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