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.
- 1. Australia 21. Realising human potential: seeking pathways to success and well being for Australia’s young people. Available at: http://www.australia21.org.au/rhp.htm (accessed Sep 2005).
- 2. Dwyer P, Smith G, Tyler D, Wyn J. Immigrants in time: life-patterns 2004. Melbourne: Australian Youth Research Centre, 2005.
- 3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s young people: their health and wellbeing 2003. Canberra: AIHW, 2003. (AIHW Catalogue No. PHE-50.) Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/9569 (accessed Sep 2005).
- 4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. A picture of Australia’s children. Canberra: AIHW, 2005. (AIHW Catalogue No. PHE-58.) Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10127 (accessed Sep 2005).
- 5. Smart D, Sanson A. What is life like for young Australians today, and how well are they faring? Fam Matters 2005 Autumn; 70: 46-53.
- 6. Dwyer P, Smith G, Tyler D, Wyn J. Life patterns, career outcomes and adult choices. Melbourne: Australian Youth Research Centre, 2003. (Research report 23.)
- 7. Eckersley R. Well & good: how we feel and why it matters. Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2004.
- 8. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Mental health and wellbeing: profile of adults, Australia, 1997. Canberra: ABS, 1998. (Catalogue No. 4326.0.)
- 9. Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, et al. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2005; 62: 593-602.
- 10. Dwyer P, Wyn J. Youth, education and risk: facing the future, London: Routledge/Falmer, 2001.
- 11. Lee C, editor. Women’s health Australia: what do we know? What do we need to know? Progress on the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health, 1995-2000. Brisbane: Australian Academic Press, 2001.
- 12. Marks G, Fleming N. Influences and consequences of wellbeing among Australian young people: 1980-1995. Soc Indic Res 1999; 46: 301-323.
- 13. Wierenga A. Losing and finding the plot: storying and the value of listening to young people. Scott Youth Issues J 2002; 4: 9-30.
- 14. McLeod J, Yates L. Making modern lives: subjectivity, schooling and social change. New York: State University of New York Press. In press.
- 15. Wierenga A, Wyn J, Glover S, Meade M. Application of enabling state principles in the delivery of youth services. Melbourne: Australian Youth Research Centre, 2003.
- 16. Furlong A, Cartmel F. Young people and social change: individualisation and risk in late modernity. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1997.
- 17. Jorm AF, Butterworth P. Changes in psychological distress in Australia over an 8-year period: evidence of worsening in young men. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. In press.
- 18. Beck U, Beck-Gernsheim E. Individualization. London: SAGE, 2002.
- 19. Connell RW, Ashenden D, Kessler S, Dowsett G. Making the difference: schools, families and social division. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1982.
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.