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Survey highlights COVID-19 impact on youth

Feelings of isolation and little social interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a rise in mental health issues among young Australians.

But a youth survey shows gender-diverse young people and students felt it more than others.

The majority of young people reported the top three areas of their life most negatively impacted by the pandemic were participation in activities, education and mental health.

Mission Australia’s annual youth survey of 20,000 Australians aged 15-19 found that of the more than 3000 young people who rated their mental health and wellbeing as poor, more than three quarters (76.5 per cent) indicated the pandemic had a negative impact.

The survey revealed gender-diverse people experienced more negative impacts across almost all domains, and were twice as likely as males to report how the pandemic negatively impacted their lives.

Students reported greater negative impact on mental health when education was negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Those living in Victoria and NSW, where lockdowns lasted the longest, were the most impacted.

Kate Filia, senior research fellow at youth mental health group Orygen, said the 2021 Youth Survey was particularly important.

Its data was collected during the second year of the pandemic, during the Delta wave when lockdowns were affecting young people to different extents across the country.

“Over the past two years, young people have borne the brunt of the effects of COVID-19 and have faced a multitude of unique challenges – socially, financially and (with respect to this age group in particular), their education and employment,” Dr Filia said.

“For those who reported more areas of their lives adversely impacted by COVID-19, a greater severity of psychological distress was experienced.”

Mission Australia’s Marion Bennett said the partnership between the charity group and Orygen would help advocacy for greater supports for young people whose mental health and wellbeing were affected by the pandemic.

“We need to increase access to mental health services, improve mental health screening and supports offered through schools and workplaces,” Ms Bennet said.

“It’s also vital we ensure that young people at risk of homelessness are identified early and have access to evidence-based housing and support models such as youth foyers when they need them.

“We must listen to the voices of young people so that the negative impacts of the pandemic don’t cause ongoing problems for this generation moving forward.”

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