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    Are the kids alright? It depends on who you ask

    Mental health

    Parents think young people are coping better than they are

    • 1 in 3 young people in Australia aged 16-24 rate their mental health over the past 12 months as terrible or poor
    • 1 in 2 young people surveyed feel isolated, alienated and misunderstood
    • 53% of young people felt depressed or down in the last year, but just 30% of parents believe their children have felt that way
    • 1 in 10 young people said the pandemic forced them to address their mental health for the first time
    • 4 in 10 young people have been withdrawing socially more than last year over the past 12 months

    Parents are underestimating the psychological toll the COVID pandemic has had on young people, believing they are coping much better than they are.

    Research from Medibank shows more than 1 in 2 surveyed 16-24-year-olds felt depressed or down in the past year, however 70% of parents were unaware young people felt that way.

    The national survey of more than 1,500 people conducted in March this year found almost 2 in 3 young people felt unmotivated and demotivated in the last 12 months, but only 40% of parents believed their children felt like this.

    1 in 3 young people surveyed rated their mental health over the past 12 months as terrible or poor with more than 25% believing it will take 1 to 2 years to improve. Parents are more pessimistic about their child’s future improvements in mental health with 31% believing it will take between 1 to 2 years.

    More than a third of those surveyed said they were having more disagreements with their parents and 39% found they were withdrawing socially more than last year. 52% are trying to overcome or control unhealthy eating, while 43% are turning up to school or university classes but feeling disconnected.

    Medibank CEO David Koczkar said while the research paints a worrying picture of how the pandemic is impacting the lives of young people it is also a story about resilience.

    “As a health company Medibank knows all too well the impact COVID is having on our young people. But young people are fighting back, looking to reverse many of the negative behaviours heightened by the pandemic.

    It’s wonderful to see 92% of the young people surveyed are actively planning on improving their mental and physical health, while 1 in 10 are addressing their mental health and wellbeing for the first time in their lives as a result of COVID.

    “The research also highlights the importance of parents and their children talking about mental health and wellbeing and the need for improved communications skills to have difficult conversations,” he said.

    26-year-old Indiana Christoffersen from Queensland says she prefers to open up to young people about her mental health struggles because she finds it hard to connect to older generations.

    “My parents don’t have much awareness of what’s going on for me mentally day-to-day. If I need support I reach out to my boyfriend and my friends who get what I’m going through and care about the same things as me,” Indiana said.

    “If I'm still struggling I will reach out to my dad who I feel more comfortable talking to after he's opened up about his own experiences with mental health.

    Chief Medical Officer of Medibank, Dr Linda Swan says the research shows young people want and need different things from their parents. “This is an opportunity for parents to think about their children's view of the impact COVID has had on their lives, not their own personal perspective, and talk with their children about their experience.”

    Claims data from Medibank and ahm has found the number of 10-29-year-olds being admitted to hospital for mental health-related treatment rose 8.5% nationally last year. That’s equivalent to around 1,400 extra admissions compared to 2020.

    People can access mental health and wellbeing support through Medibank’s Better Minds website and app and Live Better program. As well, eligible customers can access our 24/7 Mental Health Support line (1800 644 325) and can claim for counselling and psychology services both face to face and via telehealth.

    • References to mental health and wellbeing describes psychological, emotional and social wellbeing.

    About the research The research was conducted by Lewers Research on behalf of Medibank. One-on-one interviews were held in January 2022 and a survey among (n=1,575) people across Australia was conducted in March 2022.

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