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VicHealth and Burnet Institute research highlights impact of COVID-19 on young Australians’ mental wellbeing

VicHealth and Burnet Institute research highlights impact of COVID-19 on young Australians’ mental wellbeing
December 1, 2020

A new survey from VicHealth and Burnet Institute highlights the significant impact of COVID-19 on the mental wellbeing of young Australians. In response to this survey and recognising that young Australians’ mental wellbeing must be a priority in pandemic recovery, VicHealth and the YMCA are delivering new online initiatives: Youth Voice and Youth Clubs to help young Victorians connect with others, improve their mental wellbeing and develop advocacy skills to create meaningful change.  

Around 2,000 Australians aged 15-29 were surveyed for the 'Young people coping with Coronavirus report' released today. Key findings show that during the pandemic:

•More than one in three young Australians did not feel connected to others, an important precursor for mental wellbeing

•15-19 year-olds and non-binary gender young people experienced the highest levels of loneliness of all survey respondents

•almost one in three had more sleep problems than before Coronavirus

•three in four (74%) young people used social media more, and two in three (68%) felt they were using social media too much.

Burnet Institute lead researcher, Megan Lim said young people were struggling with multiple issues including mental health, social isolation, difficult living situations, and financial security.  

Lim notes “Education was a big concern for many young people. They were worried about how the disruptions would affect their assessments and outcomes. They felt they weren’t getting enough support from remote learning, they missed their friends and teachers, and were missing out on the special experiences of the final years of school or university”  

“It’s important for us to recognise that young people are making a lot of sacrifices for the community. They were more likely to lose work, they usually spend the most time socialising out of home, and they have more unstable home lives.”  

VicHealth Chief Executive, Dr Sandro Demaio said the Coronavirus pandemic had disproportionately impacted the wellbeing of young Australians and added “2020 has been an incredibly tough year for young Australians, with Coronavirus impacting how they learn, work and connect with friends and family.

“Our previous research showed a significant number of young people were already experiencing high levels of loneliness before the pandemic hit, and this study has shown the pandemic has exacerbated these issues further.  

“As we move into COVID normal we must continue to support young Australians to develop meaningful social connections and to feel empowered and optimistic about pursuing their goals. This will be a big focus for VicHealth going into 2021 and beyond.”  

21-year old Anesh Sethuraman said the pandemic had turned his life upside down and highlighted that "a lack of meaningful social connection had a significant impact on my mental wellbeing, and small tasks such as getting out of bed or keeping a clean room seemed impossible at times.

“By implementing daily mental habits such as mindfulness and gratitude practice, I became more appreciative and content with the circumstances I found myself in."  

In the survey, young people were asked what those in power could do to help them stay connected, healthy and mentally well. Common themes included more programs to foster positive mental wellbeing and drive connection with other young people and greater consideration of youth voices in decision making.  

The new online initiatives: Youth Voice and Youth Clubs delivered by VicHealth and the YMCA - Youth Voice and Youth Clubs - aims to help young Victorians connect with others, improve their mental wellbeing and develop advocacy skills to create meaningful change.  

Back in March when life was drastically impacted by COVID-19, the Y knew it needed to do something to ensure our communities could stay connected. Virtual Y delivers a ‘one stop shop’ for everything from online group fitness classes, nutrition and wellness information, as well as an online youth space where young people can learn and connect with their community. 

YMCA Victoria Executive General Manager for Youth, Disability and Camping, Peta Gillies notes “It was a huge and rewarding undertaking to pivot our face-to-face programming to a virtual model and has been such a beacon of hope during what has been a very challenging time for young people. Providing opportunities to keep connected, have your voice heard and feel supported is what the Y is all about, so when we couldn’t spend time face to face, we wanted young people to know we were still here for them.”

VicHealth and YMCA  new online initiatives: Youth Voice and Youth Clubs are hosted on the Virtual Y platform 

To access the Young people coping with Coronavirus: interim report click here 

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