Oh so stressed-what is wrong with our youth?

Oh so stressed-what is wrong with our youth?

By Cassandra Charlesworth

Right about now approximately 200,000 young Australians are swatting up, knuckling down and putting pen to paper as they complete their final Year 12 exams.

It’s an angst-ridden time, with a recent survey by youth service Reach Out finding more and more young people are experiencing “worrying” levels of exam stress and it’s not the usual suspects of parental, personal and school pressure driving it.

In addition, teens are also now very concerned about getting a job and are worried about economic uncertainty in the future.

So, what’s going on?

Exam stress

Whether it’s the HSC, the VCE, or the QCST, Reach Out found 65.1 per cent of young Australians aged 14 to 25 experienced worrying levels of exam stress, up from 51.2 per cent last year.

And there were a series of factors driving the rise: Concern about the future increased by over five per cent from 37.1 per cent in 2017 to 42.8 per cent in 2018 and anxiety about getting a job rose nearly 10 per cent, from 29.6 per cent last year to 38.2 per cent this year.

Meanwhile, the pressure they applied to themselves was also on the up, rising from 64.9 per cent in 2017 to 69.1 in 2018.

The numbers that define them

Dealing with exam pressure is nothing new, but it seems the context around it is far different to 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.

And evidence indicates they have a right to be concerned. The jobs landscape is shifting, tech is automating many entry-level roles, and buying your own property takes considerable savings and commitment.

The youth unemployment statistic currently sits at a relatively steady 12 per cent, meaning one in 10 young people struggle to get a job.

Behind that statistic is an even more frightening number. An additional 18 per cent of young people are underemployed, meaning they have a job but it fails to meet their economic needs or skills.

Effectively that means a third of our young people either have no job or require more hours and according to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, underemployment in youth is now the highest it has been in 40 years.

Meanwhile, the ultimate reward, a place to call their own, seems farther away than ever before. It’s little secret Australia is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis and first-time buyers and renters bear the brunt of the impact.

The solution

If you look at the world through the eyes of our young, it could indeed be an overwhelming place. But still, that number you receive at the end of your exams is not the figure that defines you.

As the jobs landscape shifts, a start-up culture is emerging where entrepreneurship is encouraged and freelancing could soon become the norm. In fact, Forbes tips freelance workers comprise the majority of the workforce by 2027.

In effect, that means the go-getters will be the achievers of the future, and history already tells us some of the most successful in recent history were far from defined by their marks.

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are all college dropouts.

So, the message to our youth: the future is yours for the taking. It will be different, it will be challenging but it will also offer new opportunity that is not just solely dependent on a mark.

Remember the end of school? Do you have a life lesson to share about school leaving, stress and exams?

Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her loungeroom floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.

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