1492830164181 - Stress overtakes drugs and alcohol as biggest challenge for youths: Youthline study

Stress overtakes drugs and alcohol as biggest challenge for youths: Youthline study

Completing assignments, passing exams and working out how to survive on $160 a week in Auckland are the key drivers of stress for first year social work student Ebony Fleming.

The 19-year-old’s experience is consistent with the findings from a recent Youthline survey of 400 young New Zealanders aged 16 to 24 years-old in which stress came out ahead of drugs and alcohol as the single biggest issue for young people.

Ranked first by 14 percent of respondents, stress was also identified as the issue that caused the greatest personal difficulties.

Lack of acceptance, bullying, drugs and suicide were also named as among the key challenges facing young people in the study.

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Youthline marketing information and communications manager Briana Hill said the survey results were consistent with international findings, including the diminishing role of alcohol and drugs as being the main issues affecting youth.

“I think young people get told a lot of the time drugs and alcohol are a big problem for them when actually, when asked about something they’ve been through it’s not alcohol, that’s not the stuff that comes up. It’s relationships and bullying and that kind of stuff.”

In Fleming’s case, she left her foster family in Taupo for Auckland two years ago. Struggling to find work she sought help from Youthline and became a volunteer. This year she started a social work degree at Auckland University of Technology. 

From her student allowance of $160 a week, $90 goes on accommodation and $50 on travel costs leaving about $20 to cover food and everything else.

“It is really stressful trying to figure out where it will go and what needs more money than other things.”

But bullying, suicide and drugs still feature as big issues, Fleming said. 

The teenager has seen a friend overdose on heroin and said drugs were too easy to buy.  

“It was scary to think her life could end because of how easily she purchased it.”

Former Auckland Girls Grammar student Kinanti Desyanandini​,19, works 35 hours a week in two paid jobs, is a full-time student, has two volunteer jobs and is recovering from an unhealthy relationship last year. 

She said money worries, living up to her own high expectations and navigating relationships created the most stress. 

“I do have support but I know that support comes at a price for me personally and I would much rather be as self-reliant as I can be.”

​Many of her friends had unhealthy relationships involving co-dependency and violence Desyanandini said. 

“There’s a lack of comprehension of how people should treat each other in a relationship.”

University of Auckland school of psychology associate professor Kerry Gibson said life was harder for young people today as they faced unrealistic expectations, uncertain financial futures and a much more complex social world.

“Young people live in world where there are very high expectations that they should succeed in every area of their lives.”

She said stress often resulted from a “mismatch” between what society, the media and parents portray as the “ideal life” and what young people actually experience, Gibson said.

“They are told they should prepare themselves for successful careers but they face a more precarious job and financial future than their parents did.”

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