Could The Pro-social community within skateboarding serve as a form of social inclusion to benefit
mental health in the younger population?


          No longer is adverse mental health a myth, but rather, a top priority (Pearson, 2013). Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (WHO, 2004). Public health research proclaims to society that focusing simply on the presence or absence of an adverse mental health condition, therefore using the biomedical approach, is cost ineffective (Wade, 2004). Contrary, the socioenvironmental approach, which views mental health on a continuum, is cost effective (Sheiham, 2000). According to the socioenvironmental approach, the social determinants of health serve as potent indicators for health. The social determinants of health are defined as a broad range of biological, socioeconomic, environmental, and behavioral factors that influence the health status of individuals and populations (Marmot, 2000). The reason that the social determinants of health are cost effective at presenting solutions to health issues is because they target health upstream. Targeting health upstream is a form of primary prevention where individuals engage in actions that prevent the initial occurrence of disorders by focusing on risk factors or environmental conditions that cause the disorder (WHO, 1998). It happens to be that health promotion, defined as the process of enabling people to increase power over and to improve their health, as shown in The Ottawa Charter of 1986, is centred around targeting health issues upstream (WHO, 1986). In this piece of writing, the facet and social determinant of health that will be addressed is the relationship between social inclusion and mental health in the younger population. Social inclusion is defined as being accepted as an individual beyond disability, significant or reciprocal relationships, appropriate living accommodations, employment, informal and formal supports, and community involvement (Simplican, 2014). In an article published in Preventing Chronic Disease, mental health is no exception to being a facet of health that is influenced by the social determinants of health, specifically social inclusion (Manderscheid, 2010).

          The reason that social inclusion is vital to mental health in the younger population references Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The ‘Need for Love, Affection, and Belongingness’ level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs details the human need to feel acceptance, also known as inclusion, among others (Jerome, 2013). However, even with the potential importance of the social determinants of health, such as social inclusion for the relationship to mental health in the younger population, minimal funding by the Government of Ontario (0.35%) is put towards acting on the social determinants of health (Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, 20XX). Therefore, what is needed for the mental health of the younger population is a form of social inclusion that is both cost effective and which caters to the interests of the younger population, for their full engagement. This paper proposes that the pro-social community of skateboarding could potentially be a potent stimulus for social inclusion and can therefore benefit mental health in the younger population.

          The pro-social community of skateboarding as a vehicle for mental health was thought of through research performed by Burt in 2011. Burt published an article which explored the wellbeing benefits of creative hobbies, such as quilting, in the older population. The trial had found that quality relationships (a very friendly and supportive crowd), through the creative hobby of quilting, was valued as the most important well-being factor among participants due to the motivation and encouragement groups of quilters shared with each other. The significance of this trial was the emphasis that social inclusion, because of the quality relationships factor, can be fulfilled through creative hobbies in the older population (Burt, 2011).


          Therefore, if the creative hobby of quilting is a therapeutic method for mental health in the older population because of the social inclusion, than another creative hobby such as skateboarding, could similarly act as a therapeutic method for mental health in the younger population. Supporting the notion of social inclusion within skateboarding was identified by Goldenberg, who performed a survey with over 150 skateboarders in 2009. The trial uncovered what skateboarders value the most out of skateboarding, answers were plotted on a Hierarchical Value Map. Goldenberg reported that 2 of the top 7 most salient outcomes identified by skateboarders were in terms of social inclusion, camaraderie and social opportunities (Goldenberg, 2009). The trial by Goldenberg showed how the interpersonal social factors satisfied by skateboarding are an important outlet for positive youth development (Suldo, 2008). To further explain the evidence for social inclusion within skateboarding, in a trial by Wood in 2014, observational data was gathered from a skatepark in Perth, Australia. This data included the frequency of pro-social behaviors such as: socializing with friends, taking turns, respecting others, and helping each other. Within health research, trails like this one by Wood which include data accumulation are vital to strengthen predictive models and develop dose-response relationships (Kavlovk, 1996). What was found in the trial by Wood was that all of the measured pro-social behaviors were reported as occurring for the highest frequency of ‘often’, measured on a 5 point Likert Scale. What makes these findings crucial is that the trial also surveyed how often users visited the skatepark. The most common response was users stating that they visit the skatepark, and thus engage in the pro-social behaviors, for 4-6 times per week (Wood, 2014). These frequent pro-social behaviours within skateboarding are what can form social support networks to potentially benefit mental health in the younger population. Wood’s result of social inclusion within skateboarding reflects qualitative data found through the lived experience of skateboarders. 

          Underlying how skateboarding satisfies social inclusion is the reason that minimal barriers to entry, and therefore a nonexistent social class hierarchy within skateboarding, is present (Humbert, 2006). This is important because Black (1980) and Acheson (1998) pointed out in their respective studies that social class hierarchies have a large effect on heath. These studies illustrated a social gradient where individuals of the more affluent social class receive greater health opportunities, such as more advanced heath care treatments. Since skateboarding does not marginalize individuals because those of all demographics are included to participate, there is a form of social justice whereby the inclusion allows skateboarders to live free from discrimination and not constrained to a social gradient (Burt, 2011).


          To conclude, it is evident that the social determinants of health, specifically social inclusion, have a strong impact on mental health in the younger population. When the question becomes how to fulfill social inclusion, skateboarding is a valid answer.