Life in a time of uncertainty: optimising the health and wellbeing of young Australians

Richard M Eckersley, Ani Wierenga and Johanna Wyn
Med J Aust 2005; 183 (8): 402-404.


  • Perceptions of young people’s health and wellbeing vary greatly, reflecting differences between disciplines, ideologies and generations. Young people are resilient, adaptable and doing well but, at the same time, are experiencing increased rates of important mental and physical health problems.

  • While some of the contradictions in the evidence can be explained — for example, between measures of life satisfaction and happiness and indicators of psychosocial health — tensions between perspectives remain.

  • We describe briefly a project involving cross-disciplinary synthesis that sought to gain a better understanding of the points of convergence and divergence in the commentaries and evidence on young people’s wellbeing in Australia.

  • The project suggests that, if young people’s situation is to be optimised, there needs to be greater focus in both research and policy on:

    • the “big picture” of the social changes reshaping life today;

    • total health and wellbeing, not just ill health;

    • the “mainstream” of youth, not only those young people who are marginalised and at-risk; and

    • social and cultural resources that are as important to wellbeing as material and economic resources.

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  • Richard M Eckersley1
  • Ani Wierenga2
  • Johanna Wyn3

  • 1 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • 2 Australian Youth Research Centre, Department of Education Policy Management, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.



This article draws on our report, Flashpoints and signposts: pathways to success and wellbeing for Australia's young people, which is the result of a joint project by Australia 21 and the Australian Youth Research Centre (University of Melbourne). The project was financed by a grant from VicHealth.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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