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3 in 10 young people see alcohol and drugs as problematic for their families

Alarming new research from Mission Australia has shown not only the volume of youth who perceive alcohol and drugs as impacting upon those close to them, but also the flow-on consequences for their own personal lives.

The Youth Survey 2018, which received responses from 28,000 young people across Australia, found that nearly three in 10 (27.8 per cent, or 7,600 youths) agreed that alcohol and/or drugs are a problem for their families and peers.

Those numbers increased with age, Mission Australia pointed out: 24.6 per cent of 15-year-olds see alcohol and/or drugs as a problem for their families compared with 36.7 per cent of 19-year-olds.

Holding such perceptions also strongly correlated with thinking there are more barriers to finding work, holding personal concerns, and feeling optimistic about the future.

Young people who feel that alcohol and/or drugs are a problem for their families and peers were more likely to feel there are barriers to finding work (44.9 per cent) compared to those who didn’t (36.4 per cent).

Those who see substances as issues for those close to them were also consistently more likely to worry about mental health issues (42.5 per cent compared to 26.7 per cent), family conflict (28 per cent compared to 13.6 per cent) and how to cope with stress (52.7 per cent compared to 39.8 per cent).

Elsewhere, 51.4 per cent of young people who agreed that alcohol and/or drugs as problematic for their families and peers said they felt happy or very happy about their lives overall, compared with 66.4 per cent who disagreed, and 56 per cent who agreed said they feel positive or very positive about their future prospects, compared to 64.5 per cent who disagreed.

Reflecting on the survey findings, Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said that while existing evidence shows that young people’s alcohol and drug use in Australia has actually declined in recent years, young people are feeling the impact of the drinking and drug use of those around them.

“Not only do they experience poorer relationships with their family members, but they are more likely than their unaffected peers to express personal concerns around mental health, family conflict, coping with stress and – perhaps least surprisingly – drugs and alcohol,” he said.

The impacts of growing up in such an environment not only affects their “here and now” experience of the world but also their futures, he explained.

“If we stand idle and do nothing, there’s a real risk that these young people will miss attending school, further education or even securing employment because of the ripple effect of their family’s and peer’s behaviours,” he said.

“These young people are experiencing greater levels of sadness and are more likely to feel negative about their future than their counterparts. They’re faced by situations where they are surrounded by alcohol or drug use, with very limited appropriate support or guidance.”

Australia must approach this issue from all angles, Mr Toomey said, submitting that evidence-based solutions are needed to better support these young people, their families and peers.

“There’s an urgent need for more age-specific, culturally appropriate rehabilitation services for young people and adults right across Australia. Governments, schools, community service organisations, families and local communities must work together to ensure that young people and their immediate networks have the supports they need to address alcohol and drug problems and related stresses when they arise.”

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