Family conflict, alcohol & other drugs, body image: 3 major concerns
Mission Australia’s fifth “National Survey (pdf) of Young Australians” has had a response from over 14,700 young people, aged 11-24 (95% between 11-19). They were asked to rank 12 different issues.
It seems the 2006 picture is more complex than previous years with no standout issues. Instead a large number of isses are of concern to at least one in four people. With the volatility from year to year and the diverse range of backgrounds clearly ‘one-size-fits-all approaches won’t work!
Where did the responses come from?
- all parts of the country;
- a significant number from outside our capital cities;
- from young people identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders (close to 800);
- children from families who have migrated from all over the globe;
over 150 homeless young Australians.
About the highest rankings
- Family conflict was ranked most frequently in the top three by 28.6% of respondents.
- Alcohol and other drugs was a top concern for 28.2% of respondents.
- Body image – included as a category in the survey for the first time – ranked third at 28.1%. Both females and males were similarly concerned about body image.
- Listing suicide (28%) and self harm (21.5%) separately- in previous surveys they were listed together – clarifies the levels of concern about each issue.
The report confirms that young people want to feel needed and valued and be independent, especially as they enter their twenties. What they value most highly are families and friends – this is where they overwhelmingly turn for for advice and support.
The survey continues to show that young Australians are actively involved in their communities through activities such as sport, the arts and volunteering.
The priority issues listed in the report’s executive summary
- Body image is a significant concern for close to 30% of young Australians, consistent for both males and females. It will require multi-layered responses and the involvement of many individuals and organisations, including families, schools, governments, community organisations and the media.
- Mental health issues including suicide, self harm, coping with stress and particularly depression are clearly ongoing concerns for many young people. Two in five young adults are significantly concerned about depression.
- Further research is required to more fully understand the nature of the concern about discrimination, particularly by young adults, with two in five of them identifying it as a major issue.
- The participation of young adults in volunteer activities is significant and reflects a high level of engagement in their communities. However their relatively low levels of involvement in sports (42% compared with 77.4% of those aged 11 – 14 years) may require more innovative and flexible strategies to promote their continued participation, given the potential positive benefits of sports to physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
- The similarities and differences between Indigenous and non Indigenous young people are striking. Getting a job and being independent are more important for Indigenous respondents. Family and friends are valued by both groups.
- The diversity of responses by age and gender confirm the heterogeneity of young people. Just over 30% of males compared with around 14% of females valued getting a job highly.
- Strategies and responses which aim to better support young people should be informed by data about where they turn for advice and support. At least two thirds of respondents identify friends, family, parents and a relative/family friend as their main sources of support when they have a personal problem.
“Where to from here?” asks the report, stating that the need is clear. Governments, communities and business share the responsibility.
Information such as this is a fantastic tool for parents, families, schools, community groups and employers – as well as policy and program providers – to use to help balance the ‘triple bottom line’ – business success and job opportunities while caring for the environment and socio-cultural concerns ie a ‘sustainable future’ for Australia. Does it strike a chord with you?