/ 13 February 2024

The kids are not alright


The Squiz

Young people are reporting the highest levels of psychological distress and loneliness in the country, data from the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA for short) report shows. Of the 17,000 people surveyed between 2020-2021, those aged between 15-24yo reported the highest average distress scores, with 42.3% saying they were psychologically distressed in 2021. That’s up from 18.4% in 2011. The report’s co-author, Dr Ferdi Botha, says, “If there aren’t actions taken or policies implemented to intervene, we may see loneliness and psychological distress increasing in the younger generations”.

Surely that’s linked to the pandemic?

That was part of it. But Dr Botha says, “for young people, there is a longer-term trend” that may be “connected to growth in smartphones and social media use”. Want some numbers to back that up? Between 2001 and 2009, over-65yos were the loneliest age group, but by 2021, they were the least lonely. In comparison, there’s “a clear trend of younger people becoming lonelier and feeling more isolated as time goes on,” Dr Botha said. The report also shone a spotlight on the rise of psychological distress in women… In 2007, 17.7% of females and 15% of males were distressed. But by 2021, those figures had increased by more than 50%. The use of vapes/e-cigarettes was also analysed for the first time – the data shows 14.1% of people over 15yo had tried vapes by 2021, and those aged 15-19yo were more prone to vaping compared to 30-39yos. 

Anything else?

Well, when it comes to another crucial measure for our youngsters, research from the Grattan Institute shows a third of Australian children are failing to learn how to read properly. The Reading Guarantee report points the finger at our education systems’ ongoing use of an out-of-date, student-led teaching style that’s been discredited and is now considered “contrary to science”. The report paints a grim picture of the consequences of kids not learning to read properly… Those who struggle to read are more likely to be disruptive at school, and their likelihood of being unemployed or jailed as adults also rises. Not to mention the $40 billion cost to Australia’s economy. Yesterday, Education Minister Jason Clare said there could be a change to teaching styles in the new National School Reform Agreement. It’s due later this year, so put that in your brain bank…

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