A new survey has added more weight to the advice that getting enough sleep is an important protective factor against mental illness in adolescents.
A study of 10,000 high school students aged 11 to 18 found even an extra hour of sleep a night can make a huge difference, with 40 per cent of those who go to bed later than 11pm experiencing mental health challenges compared to 22 per cent of those who go to bed at 10pm or earlier.
The MyStrengths Youth Wellbeing Report found more than 40 per cent of young Australians aged 15 to 19 report feeling stressed either all or most of the time with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting daily routines, education, employment and social interactions.
"Some of the findings affirm our suspicion around sleep habits and the direct impact on mental health, and the causes of stress and worry. However, other findings have come as a surprise, particularly around those who teenagers turn to for support, and the way they view the impact of social media on their own lives," said MyStrengths founder Dan Hardie.
Mr Hardie said of particular concern was the one in three students who do not talk to anyone when they are struggling. For those who do open up about their problems 45 per cent said they would talk to a friend, compared to 42 per cent who would talk to their mum and 22 per cent to their dad.
Respondents to the survey said their biggest concerns were those close to home rather than global issues like the environment.
Schoolwork was the number one cause of stress and worry with two thirds of teens feeling stressed about their work and two in five saying it was their biggest worry. Other stressful issues included feeling anxious about what might happen, self esteem/feeling low, friendship problems and family difficulties.
But many also worried about what they will do in the future, their appearance, what people think or say about them, and missing out on their goals.
"It became clear to us that most teenagers know their weaknesses, but very few know their strengths," Mr Hardie said.
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"Their identity, self-worth and confidence are being damaged by the focus on weakness, deficit and comparisons, and we wanted to remove the negative lens and give them a new set of lenses to view themselves and their world."
And while many adults think social media and excessive use of technology negatively impacts some of the areas of adolescent life that they are concerned about, young people see social media as a benefit to their lives.
Mr Hardie said students saw social media as a means of connection and enhancing their relationships with others and more young people felt it helped improve their self esteem rather than damaging it.
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