Key PointsAustralian teenagers are concerned about the cost of living, a national survey by Mission Australia has revealed.The survey found that teenagers consider financial matters and the economy one of the top three issues in Australia.Australian teenagers also want access to better mental healthcare.
Australian teenagers are becoming more concerned with ‘cozzie livs’ – Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year referring to the rising the cost of living – the results of a national survey by Mission Australia has revealed.
Arya Banerjee, a Melbourne 17-year-old, is one of them.
Arya has just completed year 12 and will be moving to Canberra to pursue a law degree at the Australian National University.
He’s concerned about being able to support himself financially once he moves because “the cost of living is quite frightening”, he told SBS News.
“Thinking back to pre-COVID days when I started making my plan to move up … I think at that point in time a lot more people were confident in their lifestyles and their ability to support themselves,” he said.
While Arya is looking forward to his studies, he’s concerned about balancing the demands of work and study amid the cost of living crisis.
“Being able to enjoy myself those first few years is going to be a challenge,” he said.
For the Mission Australia survey, teenagers across Australia aged between 15 to 19 years weighed in on their biggest issues.
Two years ago, the economy and financial matters didn’t feature in the top three issues for young people.
Now, 31 per cent of respondents said the economy and financial matters were the most important compared with 22 per cent in 2022 and 11 per cent in 2021.
In total, 15 per cent of the more than 19,500 respondents were concerned about financial security.
Teens are worried about financial security
For some, the cost of living means they aren’t able to focus as much on their studies.
“The cost of food and petrol has meant that I have to work more and focus less on school,” an 18-year-old NSW survey respondent said.
A high workload, academic pressure, challenges with teachers and learning difficulties were among the specific struggles faced by students.
Arya says the cost of living is compounding all these issues.
“[The cost of living crisis], is a very multifaceted problem and often acts as a catalyst between already existing challenges – fusing them into one large crisis,” he said.
Concerns about coping with stress
Overall, a quarter of teenagers surveyed said their biggest personal challenge was mental health, with more than a third saying they were extremely or very concerned about coping with stress.
But despite mostly positive feelings towards their studies, students made it clear they would like to see greater understanding from teachers and parents regarding mental health.
One respondent suggested private discussions with teachers during mental health challenges could help with plans to alleviate stress and pressure from school.
“My mental health has probably been the biggest challenge for me in the last year,” a 17-year-old respondent from NSW said, adding: “I have been struggling with feeling down, stressed and overwhelmed.”
Many who struggled with mental health challenges said they wished they had someone to talk to who understood them.
Mental health affecting work and study goals
Respondents offered possible solutions that Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister said needed to be taken seriously.
“(Australian teenagers) want better access to mental healthcare services, accurate diagnosis and treatment, support from their family and friends and professional help,” she said.
Fears about the future have also greatly contributed to the mental health issues facing Australian teenagers, as many worry about the climate crisis, the environment and their future.
“In the past year, I have struggled with anxiety regarding my future and climate change,” a 17-year-old Tasmanian respondent said.
Callister commended the fortitude shown by Australian youth throughout the past year, when survey responses were gathered.
During that time, Australians faced severe weather events, as well as public discussion on climate change, mental health, the voice referendum, racism, the rising cost of living and the housing and homelessness crisis.
“Through our Youth Survey, young people have shown they care about issues facing Australia and themselves, are strong and resilient, diverse and very capable,” said Callister.
The survey results were compiled between April and August 2023.
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