How has the pandemic affected young Australians?

Trigger warning – suicide, mental health 

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has taken a toll on young people mentally, and a recent study has revealed the extent of that toll. Last week, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released a report on young people, looking into topics of employment, education, health and the impact of the pandemic. The results found that young people during the pandemic experienced higher rates of psychological distress, job loss, and educational disruption compared to older Australians.

Work and employment in numbers 

Particularly during the early stages of the pandemic, workers aged 15-24 were hardest hit by unemployment when COVID-19 first spread. Within the first month of the pandemic, those aged 15 to 24 accounted for more than one-third (38%) of the nearly 600,000 people who lost their jobs in April 2020. 

Monthly analysis since the pandemic began showed the 15-24 year old unemployment rate peaked at 16.4% in July 2020.

Professor Pat McGorry, a psychiatrist and director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, commented that there were many issues prior to the pandemic as well. “The drivers of the issues affecting youth are social and economic, and insecurity. This insecurity was an issue even before the pandemic. Everything is stacked against them, climate change, university fees and housing prices. My generation has really not looked after young people well.”

Mental health

Although the pandemic had not led to an overall increase in suicide rates, “this is not the case across the entire population, with worrying trends being seen among young people and in particular young females” according to suicide prevention researcher Dr Jo Robinson.

With this in mind, AIHW spokesperson Sally Mills noted that there is still more to be learnt within this space of the long-term effects of the pandemic. “Ongoing monitoring is needed to fully understand the longer-term impact of the pandemic. Adolescence and young adulthood is a critical period in a person’s life. Young people often experience rapid physical, social and emotional changes in a time where they are transitioning from dependence to independence”. 

Robinson also warned that, “we are not out of the woods yet, with COVID clusters and lockdowns in several states, and no sign of a universal vaccine rollout means this is likely to continue into next year. Many young people are fatigued and we need to make sure we are looking after their emotional wellbeing as well as their educational and financial needs”

If this article has brought up anything for you, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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