You’ve probably heard the above statements many times in relation to stress in high school students. A lot of schools, perhaps including yours, are guilty of throwing phrases like this around. Though it may be true, is it actually helpful, and are the claims backed up?
Today we are going to dive into some data about student stress to find what is really going on throughout our country, and what we may be able to do about it.
Sound good? Let’s dive into the stats of stress in high school students.
Stress in Young People
In the 2020 survey conducted by Headspace, one third of the 1,035 young people polled were experiencing ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of stress. These students may have been tired, panicked, unable to perform daily tasks, anxious or feeling overwhelmed for a long period of time.
Let’s look at this in closer detail, honing in on the 15-17 age bracket, which is what most people are in senior high school.
38% of those aged 15-17 said they were experiencing high or very high rates of psychological distress, making this the most stressed age bracket examined. This statistic is even more concerning for girls, as 46% of females in this age bracket described themselves as having high levels of stress.
While Headspace didn’t provide specific reasons students were stressed, these emotions can really affect your study. ReachOut also suggests that academic and exam anxiety can be a leading cause of stress for students, so this is certainly an element to consider.
On top of this, ReachOut’s survey found that 43% of 15-19 year old surveyed were concerned about coping with stress, and 31% felt mental health was one of the most important factors in Australian society today.
These stats combined suggest students are stressed, are concerned about their stress, and care about it.
The Statistics for Stress Have Been Consistent
Australia has a history of stress in young people, and the numbers haven’t decreased in recent years.
In 2018, 32% of young people polled by Headspace were experiencing high rates of stress, which is only 2% lower than last year.
In Headspace’s 2018 report, they suggested that these numbers are “more than three times greater than that reported by the Australian government in 2007.”
It’s pretty clear that at best, the stress of Australia’s young people is staying consistent over time. More than likely, it is slowly increasing.
So, what are the implications of all the things we have just discussed? That’s what we are going to tackle in the next two points.
Implication #1: Young people and education
On the whole, the Australian education system is pretty good. Most students graduate literate, numerate, employable or easily able to get into university. But is this enough?
In the Mission Australia Survey, which had 25,800 participants, only 10.4% of people suggested they were ‘very satisfied’ with their studies and 56.7% were ‘satisfied’. While this may seem like a big number, it leaves more than a third of students not entirely happy with their education.
This may be a big cause of stress. If your studies are not what you expect, or do not prioritise your mental health in the way you imagine, you are more likely to experience rates of disappointment and anxiety.
While 67.5% of students said that being satisfied with their studies was ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’, 65.9% said the same for mental health. These statistics show a clear power struggle between getting good marks and having good mental health.
Because of this, it might be important for schools or other groups to educate students more on the impacts of stress, including how to balance their grades with feeling calm and able to work.
Implication #2: Young people and daily activities
Does this all just seem a bit extreme? Perhaps stress isn’t so bad and we all just need to get on with our lives.
Unfortunately, the level of stress students are experiencing means that many young people are finding it hard to balance all priorities in their lives and function well.
Headspace found that in 2020, 53% of 15-17 year olds had trouble carrying out daily activities. That means that over half your peers have had a day where they have found it challenging to function at full capacity. It’s a pretty massive amount of people when you think about it in those terms, right?
This issue has really risen since 2018, when only 41% of students were having trouble carrying out daily tasks.
There is good evidence to suggest that stress affects daily functioning, as it puts your body into a ‘fight or flight’ response system in which it functions differently than usual, with a much higher level of cortisol production. You may also feel genuinely sick of stress, including having an upset stomach, nausea or headaches, which can put you behind on work.
We can then draw a pretty clear line between stress and the ability to function well among young people — and that’s concerning!
What do we do about all this stress?
As we’ve just recapped, serious stress currently affects a third of senior high school students in Australia. This impacts everyday life and can have effects on education.
Essentially, Australian students are stressed and we need a solution.
ReachOut suggests some great stress tactics, including:
- Finding the issue
- Considering if you can do anything to change the issue
- Finding ways to feel better (a bath, mindfulness, a walk)
We also have some great resources that can help, including:
Sometimes, we also need long-term help for our stress, or schools need to implement broader systems to help cohorts cope. If you think this may be the case for your situation, get in contact with a trusted teacher, make a call to Lifeline or book a free appointment with Headspace.
Stress in high school students is a big thing, and the way you feel is totally valid. You’re in the same boat as many people (the statistics don’t lie), so stick with it and get help when you need it!
Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.