Community activity participation: a path to youth wellbeing

Published 2009. Contact: Paul Jose


Extracurricular activities are important in many young people’s lives, and have been associated with positive academic, psychological, and social outcomes. However, past studies still leave a lot of questions open about the link between participation in community-based activities and youth well-being, particularly for youth from different ethno-cultural groups.

To understand more about the relationship between participation and well-being, this study analyzed longitudinal data collected from over 1700 young New Zealanders who participated in the Youth Connectedness Project.


The Youth Connectedness Project is one of the biggest studies about young people in Aotearoa / New Zealand. It surveyed over 1700 young people, aged from 9 to 17, once a year from 2007 to 2009.

The study collected lots of valuable information on how connected young people feel to their families, schools, peers, and communities—hence its name. But it also collected information on what kinds of things young people get up to during and after school hours, and how they feel about their lives. In particular, the study asked youth several questions about their wellbeing—a general state of feeling good, well-supported, and hopeful for the future.


Our results showed some good news for the activity participants: their well-being was higher a year (and even two years) later, and they also appeared to feel more connected to their communities. These effects were stronger for youth who continued participating in activities for two or three years.

We also found the benefits of participation were more apparent for some groups of young people than for others. In particular, we discovered that:

  • Youth participating in sports activities tended to report higher wellbeing than those who didn’t
  • Young men participating in arts or community activities tended to report greater community connectedness than those who didn’t
  • Māori youth participating in a combination of arts or community activities and sports tended to report higher well-being than those who didn’t.

This study provides solid evidence in support of encouraging youth to participate in activity groups being run in their communities. It also suggests that we should ensure that communities have the resources to provide youth with plenty of opportunities for getting involved in well-run, structured activities involving sports, arts, or community service outside of school hours. Investing in getting youth out there and involved seems to be a path to well-being not only in the present, but in the future.

More more information on the Connectedness in Youth project click here.