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New research shows spike in mental health impacts of study stress on Aussie students in 2021

New research by mental health organisation ReachOut shows a significant increase in the severity of study stress for young Australians this year, with approximately one third of students reporting that study stress is currently having a major impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing, up from 18 per cent in December 2020.*

Conducted in September 2021, the survey found that the number of young people reporting poor mental health or wellbeing as a result of study stress has doubled from 25 per cent in previous years to 56 per cent this year. 

 The survey also showed some of the impacts that study stress is having on the lives of students in 2021 with the added pressures of COVID-19 restrictions. The number of students unable to focus doubled to 68 per cent, up from 33 per cent in December 2020. 57 per cent were having trouble sleeping, up from 32 per cent in December 2020. 39 per cent reported poor nutrition, up from 18 per cent in December 2020 and 32 per cent reported that they had experienced issues with their family, up from 16 per cent in December 2020.

When asked about studying this year and navigating the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions, 40 per cent said it’s been difficult to learn content needed for exams, one in five said they didn’t have an appropriate place to study and 23 per cent said their plans for study or work after school have changed.

Despite the increased impact of study stress on young people, fewer young people are getting support for study stress. In 2019, 85 per cent accessed support from family, friends or professional services, while in 2021 this had dropped to 78 per cent.

Ashley de Silva, CEO of ReachOut, said that it was worrying to see students in such high distress and highlighted the support that is available.

“The results of ReachOut’s new research shows that this has been a stressful year for students. It’s taking a real toll on their mental health and the fundamentals such as sleep, nutrition and their relationships.

ReachOut undertakes research with students about study stress each year and said “it is concerning to see such a jump in these figures”.

“With Term 4 in full swing and some students preparing to return to face-to-face learning, thousands of students across the country still have significant challenges to face before the end of the year. This is particularly true for Year 12 students who are approaching their final exams.

“Now is the time for students to take a proactive approach to looking after their mental health and to seek professional support if they need it.

“High numbers of young people have indicated in this most recent research that information about how to cope with study stress, connecting with others going through the same thing and psychological support would help them right now. We want to remind students that ReachOut has information about study stress, tips, online communities and pathways to further support,” he said.

 *National surveys of over 1000 young people (aged 14-25) across Australia conducted in September 2021 and December 2020 by ReachOut.

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