Body Image, Stress & Environment Biggest Issues for Young Australians
17 November 2010 at 3:32 pm
Body image issues, increasing stress and school/study worries are the leading personal concerns of young Australians, while the environment is the biggest challenge facing the nation, according to the country's largest annual survey of young people.
One in two young Australians list the environment as the most important issue facing the nation, according to the national survey conducted by Christian community service organisation Mission Australia.
The survey tested the views of more than 50,000 young people – the biggest group since the survey began in 2002 – between the ages of 11-24 (98 per cent aged 11-19).
In addition to their concerns it surveys what young people value, who they turn to for advice, what activities they engage in and how they feel about the future.
For the first time the survey asked young people for their unprompted views on the most important issues facing Australia.
The environment topped the list of issues facing Australia, with over 45% of respondents ranking it as a ‘top three’ issue followed by alcohol and drugs (37.1 per cent) and crime, safety and violence (21.0 per cent). Environment was the major issue for all age groups and for both males and females.
The survey found that body image is the leading personal concern for young Australians, and that stress and school/study worries are at far greater levels than in recent years.
When asked to rank their personal concerns from 15 issues, body image was ranked most frequently in the top three by 31.1 per cent of respondents, followed by family conflict at 27.8 per cent and coping with stress at 27.3 per cent.
Coping with stress (18.7 per cent in 2009 – 27.3 per cent in 2010) and school or study problems (17.3 per cent in 2009 – 25.5 per cent in 2010) experienced the greatest increases in concern from last year's survey.
Mission Australia's spokesperson, Anne Hampshire says concern about body image was evenly split between young people worried about their personal appearance and the unrealistic portrayal of 'the perfect body' in the media and elsewhere.
Hampshire says that despite the fact that governments, welfare groups and youth agencies have moved to tackle the issue of poor body image in recent years, there's still a lot of work to do – particularly among young adults where they saw the biggest jump in concern.
Hampshire says that on the issue of environment, its clear from the responses that young people believe urgent action is required on a number of fronts.
She says young people are particularly keen for government leadership as well as a broad community response to the issue. Young people want Australians of all ages – including themselves – and backgrounds to take personal responsibility for their behaviour and lifestyle and how they impact on the environment.
Hampshire says its important to note that with the question of the biggest issues facing Australia, respondents were given a clean slate – they were asked to provide their own answers, not to rank issues.
One of the significant results in the 2010 survey is a reversal in the decline in the number of young people involved in extra-curricular activities.
Hampshire says the number of young people involved in an arts or cultural activity – such as drama, music or dance -almost halved between the 2008 and 2009 surveys. Hampshire says this has been attributed to the impact of the global financial crisis on family spending.
The 2010 survey has found that activity results have bounced back to 2008 levels, reflecting confidence in the strength of the local economy.
- Almost 50% of the young adult group was involved in volunteer work, with females more likely than males to take part in volunteering. Overall volunteer rates amongst respondents were up from 18% in 2009 to 28% in 2010.
- The use of the internet as a source of advice and support continues to grow, with a quarter of respondents indicating it was a top source of advice and support in 2010, up from one in ten in 2001. Around 40% of the young adult group surveyed identified the internet as a major source of advice. The top three sources of advice and support were friends, parents and relative/family friend.