Family and Friends Key to Happiness for At-Risk Teens - Report
16 January 2014 at 10:09 am
Family and friends play a vital role in the wellbeing of disadvantaged Australian teenagers, an RMIT University report has revealed.
The report by RMIT lecturer Dr Adrian Tomyn, and funded by the Federal Department of Education, examined the happiness levels of young people aged 12-19 who were participants in the Department’s Youth Connections Program that provides support for “at-risk” youth across Australia.
More than 23,000 young people were surveyed as part of the report.
The report showed that at-risk teenagers’ disadvantage negatively affected two key evaluations of happiness however, on average, young people were as happy with their social connections as mainstream teens.
Dr Tomyn said the findings supported the importance of the three corners of the “Golden Triangle” of happiness – supportive relationships, money and having a sense of meaning and accomplishment in life.
“Disadvantaged young people tend to have significantly lower levels of overall happiness than the average young Australian, largely due to lower scores on ‘Standard of Living’ and ‘Achieving in Life',” he said.
“But they tend to score no differently to average teens on ‘Relationships’ and this seems to be a crucial factor that supports happiness and prevents further loss to wellbeing in the face of adversity.
“Friends and family are among the most important protective ‘buffers’ for mental health – they act as vital sources of comfort, reassurance and support during difficult times.
“People low on social resources are at high risk for depression when faced with a personal crisis, so the fact many of these ‘at-risk’ young people have strong social support networks is crucial for their current state of mind and future wellbeing.”
The research validated the support of the Youth Connections Program, with the proportion of young people scoring in the normal range for happiness increasing from less than two thirds to 81.8 per cent after taking part in the program; while the proportion of teens scoring in the critically low range for happiness more than halved.
Other findings include:
- about one quarter of “at-risk” teens have a suspected or diagnosed mental health issue, which is compromising their participation in education.
- happiness decreases with increasing levels of youth disengagement, with those out of education or employment at very high-risk for low personal wellbeing and depression.