OLA Study

Why are we doing this study?

The numbers of people with depression and anxiety greatly increases during adolescence. Adolescents who live in big cities more commonly experience stressful events such as conflicts, poverty, substance misuse and social isolation, which puts them at greater risk of developing one or both conditions. This includes adolescents from Latin America, which is one of the most urban parts of the world with approximately 80% of the population living in large cities. In addition, young people represent a quarter of the population in Latin America. Estimated levels of depression and/or anxiety for adolescents within the region range from 17% in Colombia to 26% in Argentina.

Although many individuals experience stressful events, most do not develop either depression or anxiety. Of those who do experience mental distress, evidence suggests that 50-60% of individuals recover after one year. The OLA study therefore aims to explore these two research questions:

  1. What characteristics, resources and activities prevent young people from urban environments from developing depression and anxiety?

  2. What characteristics, resources and activities help young people from urban environments recover from depression and anxiety?

Understanding and identifying these characteristics, resources and activities will help us to develop new ways to treat depression and anxiety.

Study design

OLA is a research study, which has been split into 4 work packages (WP), each with different research activities:


Work package

2 - 3

Work package


Work package

Funded by


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Financiado por


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Work package 1

Aim: Three research activities will develop a set of questionnaires to ask young people about the characteristics, resources and activities that help them to recover from and prevent depression and anxiety. These questionnaires will be used in WP2 and 3:

Arts-based workshops
WHAT: 2-4 arts-based workshops will be run by each arts organisation: Fundacíon Crear Vale la Pena (Buenos Aires), Fundacíon Nacional Batuta (Bogotá), Fundacíon Artística y Social La Família Ayara (Bogotá) and Teatro La Plaza (Lima).
WHO: (Up to) twenty 15-24 year olds.
WHY: The aim is to explore young people’s experiences of recovering from episodes of mental distress, including the specific role of the arts and creativity in helping them to prevent or recover from mental distress.

Focus groups
WHAT: Six focus groups per country with three different participant groups
WHO: Adolescents (15-16 years old), young adults (20-24 years old), and professionals (including clinical experts, educational staff and youth workers).
WHY: The aim is to explore the types of resources that adolescents and young adults use, including how to ask about these resources, and to explore opinions on resources that we plan to include in the questionnaires (for example, are any resources missing from our questionnaires or irrelevant?).

Pilot study
WHAT: Pilot of the questionnaires.
WHO: Thirty participants in each country (fifteen 15-16 year olds, and fifteen 20-24 year olds) will pilot the questionnaires.
WHY: To test how feasible and acceptable the questionnaires are.

Work package 2 and 3

Cross sectional study
WHAT: Participants will complete the questionnaires developed in WP1.
WHO: 2,040 young people (15-16 years old and 20-24 years old) across the three countries: 1,020 participants experiencing depression and/or anxiety and 1,020 without.
WHY: To understand if characteristics, resources and activities are different in young people who are, and are not experiencing depression and anxiety.

Longitudinal cohort study
WHAT: Participants will complete a shorter set of questionnaires after 6 months and the full set of questionnaires after a period of 12 months and 24 months.
WHO: 1,020 young people (aged 15-16 years and 20-24 years) across the three countries, who took part in the cross-sectional study and who were experiencing depression and/or anxiety when they joined the study.
WHY: To understand which characteristics, resources and activities in young people are linked to recovery from depression and anxiety.

Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
WHAT: Participants will complete a set of short questionnaires (taking no more than 2 minutes) using a mobile phone app at random time points as they go about their day-to-day activities, 5-8 times per day for 7 consecutive days. The questionnaires will ask participants questions such as how they are feeling, what they are doing and who they are with. After 12 months, the 90 participants with depression and/or anxiety at the time they joined the study will complete the same questionnaires, using the mobile phone app again.
WHO: 150 young people (15-16 and 20-24 years old) will be recruited across the three countries: 90 with depression and anxiety and 60 participants without.
WHY: ESM runs alongside the cross-sectional and longitudinal cohort studies and shares these study aims. It also aims to understand whether young people use similar characteristics, resources and activities for short-term recovery (within hours or days) as for long-term recovery (over one year).

Work package 4

Aim: To explore existing approaches and resource-oriented interventions that are effective in preventing depression and anxiety in young people or in supporting them to recover.

In-depth interviews
WHAT: Participants will attend a one-to-one interview with a member of the research team to talk about their experiences.
WHO: 30 young people (15-16 years old and 20-24 years old) who participated in the longitudinal cohort study (WP3) across the three countries.
WHY: To explore what resources and activities did young people with depression and anxiety find helpful or not helpful, and to explore their suggestions for how the community and/or services could help them with their recovery.

Case studies of good practice
WHAT: The workshops and in-depth interviews will identify initiatives that will be further explored through observation field visits and interviews with people who work at and/or use these initiatives.
The final stakeholder workshop in each country will bring together the information to produce the case studies of good practice.
WHO: Participants from a range of different services, initiatives, projects or approaches will be invited to attend a workshop (12 workshops across the 3 countries).
WHY: Aim to explore existing approaches and resource-oriented interventions that are effective in preventing depression and anxiety in young people or in supporting them to recover.