New research has shown the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on young people and left them worse at "dealing with life".

Key findings released by Headspace today have found more than half of young Australians, 51 per cent, now say they are unable to carry out their daily activities. This is a significant increase from two years ago, when 41 per cent reported a struggle carrying out their daily activities.

The rates of coping are also declining for teens, with only 63 per cent of 12-14 year olds saying they are "dealing with life". This is down from 2018, when 72 per cent of this same age group said they were able to cope.

One third of young Aussies also reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. The number was higher among women than men.

The rate of high to very high psychological distress has also risen in teenage boys aged 15-17, from 20 per cent in 2018, to 29 per cent in 2020.

In the older age group of 22-25 year olds, 54 per cent say they are "dealing with life", down from 47 per cent in 2018.

Nick Duigan, the National Clinical Advisor at Headspace told the research has shown about "one third of young Australians are not dealing with life".

The coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted young people.
The coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted young people.


He said mental health was about keeping up with "day-to-day" things, including your social life, staying connected to family and friends, leisure activities and sports.

He said keeping engaged in these areas keeps people protected from being severely impacted from mental health issues.

Mr Duigan said during the coronavirus pandemic, as various states implemented some form of shutdown, all three areas were impacted. He said these measures, while effective at controlling the spread of COVID-19, were "problematic" for mental health.

"Disconnection is really problematic," Mr Duigan said. He said the longer it continues, the harder it can be for young people to rebuild their protective structures. "It's really important to take small steps each day."

Mr Duigan urged young people who felt like they'd been impacted to visit the Headspace website, where tools were available.

He said the site had suggested seven small steps young people could take each day to help them cope.

The pandemic disrupted the lives of young people.
The pandemic disrupted the lives of young people.

The results come from a biannual survey of 1035 young Australians aged between 12-25, who were surveyed between May 25 and June 21.

The survey period was just as many states were coming out of the first COVID-19 lockdown (or between lockdowns for Victoria).

Headspace released the results to coincide with the foundation's fifth annual Headspace Day - a national event held during Mental Health Month which supports the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

Jason Trethowan, the CEO of Headspace, said in a statement it was "highly concerning is that one third of young Aussies are already reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress, treble what they were in 2007, but we're also seeing the impacts of a really challenging year affecting their sense of general wellbeing".

"Young people are telling us COVID-19 has impacted their lives significantly. They've missed out on many of the usual social connections and school milestones this year - and this comes on top of some of the worst natural disasters our country has faced including drought, floods and the bushfire crisis."

Mr Trethowan said Headspace had seen a drop in young people's ability to manage their school, home and work lives, and it was "affecting their sense of wellbeing, their relationships and how they cope".

He also encouraged young people to take a small step every day towards bettering their mental health.

"It's a crucial part of managing mental health - whether it's 15 seconds or five minutes, make it a habit and create some time and space to focus on the everyday things that make you smile, or simply slow down and breathe a little easier."

Originally published as Millennials struggling with everyday life