Family poverty damages teens

By Lydia Anderson

1 comment
Tania Pinfold
Tania Pinfold

Family financial stress is having a major impact on Rotorua teenagers' mental health, a local doctor warns.

"We're really aware that the economy is having a big impact on the lives of young people and the difficult situations of their family," said Rotovegas Youth Health clinical leader Tania Pinfold.

"We're frequently seeing anxiety and depression leading to young people struggling to deal with other everyday stress."

Her comments followed the release of Auckland University's Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey, which surveyed 8500 Kiwi secondary students on issues including education, health and economic wellbeing.

While it showed a significant drop in the number of teenagers using marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes, depression, bullying and financial stress in families had increased.

The survey showed 69 per cent of youth in the lowest-income households worried their parents lacked money for food. Living rooms used as bedrooms was a reality for 22 per cent of poorer survey participants and 10 per cent said the garage was used as a bedroom.

Self-harm among teenagers had risen to 29.1 per cent of girls and 17.9 per cent of boys.

Dr Pinfold had seen fewer alcohol and drug problems in the secondary-school age group. The main issue she dealt with in high schools was promoting sexual health.

Politicians blamed the flow-on effect of the global financial crisis for increased financial stress.

Green Party youth spokeswoman Holly Walker said while it was encouraging to see substance abuse had declined since 2001, she was concerned about the higher rates of stress and mental health issues.

"The findings are clear that the last few years have been tough on young people financially, and that this is taking its toll on their mental health and living situations," she said.

The Child Poverty Action Group congratulated young people for an overall reduction in risk-taking behaviour. However, spokeswoman Professor Innes Asher said it was worrying that young people in low-income families had anxiety about the challenges their parents faced and appeared to be living in less than ideal surroundings.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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