Accelerated jabs for younger people after Doherty modelling shows it’s vital to vaccinate them quickly

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe government is set to tweak its vaccination timetable to accelerate jabs for those aged 30 to 39, after Doherty Institute modelling showing it is vital to get younger adults quickly vaccinated, because they are high COVID transmitters.

Those in their 30s and 20s – scheduled for the Pfizer vaccine – are at the back of the queue under the rollout plan, becoming eligible from September-October, according to the man in charge of the rollout, General JJ Frewen, speaking some weeks ago.

With Pfizer in short supply, they are now under some pressure, including from Scott Morrison and changing health advice, to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Government sources said on Tuesday the plan would be tweaked, probably this week, after incoming Pfizer supply numbers were confirmed.

The Doherty modelling, used as a basis for national cabinet last week setting vaccination targets, says: “As supply allows, extending vaccinations for adults under 40 years offers the greatest potential to reduce transmission now that a high proportion of vulnerable Australians are vaccinated.”

The vaccine uptake by young people 16 and over “will strongly influence the impact of vaccination on overall transmission,” Doherty says.

The modelling was released on Tuesday at a news conference by Scott Morrison and Professor Jodie McVernon, Director of Epidemiology at the Doherty Institute.

McVernon said the 20 to 39 year olds were “the peak spreaders” of the virus.

“They will bring COVID home to their children, they will take it home to their own parents, and this is the group now where we’re proposing the reorientation of the strategy,” she said.

National cabinet last week agreed in principle to a four stage plan to move from the present suppression strategy (aiming for zero community transmission) to a limited reopening when 70% of people 16 and over have been fully vaccinated. When the vaccination level reached 80%, lockdowns would be rare and limited.

In an analysis for the national cabinet meeting, Treasury calculated the direct impact on economic activity of various vaccination scenarios modelled by Doherty.

Treasury found that “continuing to minimise the number of COVID-19 cases, by taking early and strong action in response to outbreaks of the Delta variant, is consistently more cost effective than allowing higher levels of community transmission, which ultimately requires longer and more costly lockdowns.”

At 50% vaccination rates, the direct economic cost of minimising cases is about $570 million a week; at 60%, it is about $430 million.

At 70%, with only low level restrictions needed, the expected economic cost of COVID-19 management falls to about $200 million each week, reducing to about $140 million at an 80% vaccination level.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the clear message from the economic modelling “is that until we get to 70% and above vaccination rates, the economic imperative is that governments need to move fast to get on top of those cases. If they don’t, we see lengthier and more severe lockdowns, which have a much more significant economic cost.”

“What Treasury have found is that at 50% and 60% vaccination rates, it’s five times more costly, should governments not move early to get on top of the virus.”

The NSW government has recently come under sharp criticism for not moving earlier in the current Sydney outbreak. There is now a prolonged lockdown.

Despite Australia’s still low vaccination rate – only about one in five 16 and over have had two doses – Morrison strongly rejected Anthony Albanese’s proposal that everyone who is fully vaccinated by December 1 should receive $300.

Morrison said the proposal was “a vote of no-confidence in Australians”, and “a bubble without a thought”. It said to people that health concerns they might have about a vaccine could be paid off.

Pointing to the relatively high level of take-up by older people Morrison said: “Do we really think that Australians of younger ages are less committed to their own health, the health of their families, the health of their communities, than those who are older? Of course not.”

“It’s not a game show. And it’s very important that we continue to respect how Australians are engaging with this process. So if they do have hesitancy about vaccines, I’m not going to pay them off. I’m going to pay a GP to sit down with them and talk them through their concerns, which is what I have already done.”

The Essential poll, released Tuesday, found 47% of people who have not been vaccinated say they would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca. This unwillingness to receive AstraZeneca has increased substantially since April.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cardiac arrests in young people — what causes them and can they be prevented or treated? A heart expert explains

Wolfgang Rattay/AP/AAP

Jessica Orchard, University of SydneyOn June 12, 16,000 spectators at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium and millions of viewers around the world watched in shock as Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen’s heart stopped.

Late in the first half of Denmark’s opening game of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament against Finland, the 29 year-old was running just after a throw-in and suddenly collapsed. It appears he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

Fortunately, he was quickly attended to by a medical team with full resuscitation equipment, who administered CPR and successfully used a defibrillator. Erikson survived and has been fitted with an implantable cardiac defibrillator. This is a small device which is connected to the heart and fitted under the skin. If a dangerously abnormal rhythm is detected, it will deliver an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.

So how often do cardiac arrests happen in young people? What are the risk factors, and can they be prevented?

Cardiac arrests during sport are extremely rare. If you’re playing sport next weekend, you should go ahead in the knowledge it’s almost certain not to happen. The benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks.

But because events like this do happen, albeit very rarely, we need public venues to have good emergency plans to improve survival, including the widespread availability of defibrillators.

There have been some recent improvements in this regard in Australia. For example, defibrillators are now installed in all Coles and Woolworths stores nationally, and there are several programs to support rollout of defibrillators and emergency action plans to community sports clubs. But there’s still room for improvement.

Am I at risk? How often does this happen?

Sudden death from cardiac arrest in a young person is a very rare but tragic outcome. The baseline risk in Australia for people under 35 is 1.3 per 100,000 people per year, with 15% occurring either during or immediately after exercise.

Across all ages, there are 20,000 sudden cardiac arrests in Australia that occur out of hospital every year, and sadly only 10% of people survive.

It’s also worth remembering a cardiac arrest isn’t exactly the same thing as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries is blocked, stopping blood supply to part of the heart. A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood around the body, and can occur due to a heart attack or another cause.

The major causes of cardiac arrest depend on age. In people over 35, the vast majority are caused by coronary artery disease, where arteries supplying blood to the heart are blocked or damaged.

In people aged under 35, there’s no single major cause of cardiac arrest. Some of the conditions that can cause cardiac arrest in young people include:

However, 40% of sudden cardiac deaths in young people remain unexplained even after autopsy.

Is cardiac screening the answer?

Cardiac screening in young people looks for certain heart abnormalities that haven’t yet been detected. It’s common for elite and professional athletes in Australia and internationally, and is mandatory for young athletes in some countries, for example Italy and Israel.

This screening usually includes a “12-lead electrocardiogram” or ECG, which is a painless test that involves putting some sticky dots on the body and recording the electrical activity of the heart over a ten second period.

However, ECG screening cannot detect all of the conditions which can cause sudden cardiac arrests. This is because some conditions don’t show ECG abnormalities before a cardiac arrest.

Eriksen’s condition was likely in that category, because we know he had regular heart screenings while at Tottenham and these hadn’t shown any problems.

Medicare in Australia funds heart health checks for people who are middle aged or older, but not in younger people. This is similar to most countries. Other than in professional athletes and those with a family history, most professional bodies don’t recommend widespread screening of younger people because the risk of cardiac arrests is so low overall.

How else can we prevent sudden cardiac death? Defibrillators and data

The best strategy for preventing sudden cardiac death at any age is having defibrillators widely available. A defibrillator is a device that can analyse the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electric shock if needed. This can shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.

While they obviously can’t stop the cardiac arrest happening in the first place, they are crucial to survival once they do happen. Early access to a defibrillator can improve survival to almost 90%.

However, access needs to be very quick, ideally within 2-5 minutes, as we know the chances of survival drop by 10% for every minute of delay before defibrillation.

We also need as many as people as possible to be regularly trained to provide CPR.

Fabrice Muamba, a former midfielder for the Bolton Wanderers soccer team in the UK, was lucky to survive after he collapsed and his heart stopped on the field during a 2012 FA cup quarter-final.

Muamba, who recovered after he received CPR and 26 defibrillator shocks, last week voiced his support for defibrillators to be a legal requirement in public places in the UK. Ideally, Australia could also introduce a similar requirement to have defibrillators in public venues, supported by widespread CPR training (including how to use a defibrillator) to improve survival rates from out of hospital cardiac arrests.

In addition to defibrillators and CPR training, venues such as schools and sporting stadiums need to have good cardiac emergency plans so they can respond efficiently and effectively if someone’s heart stops.

Some of the conditions that are diagnosable prior to a cardiac arrest run in families, such as “Long QT syndrome”. So, it’s important to seek medical advice for anyone with a family member who has had cardiac arrest under the age of 40.

Read more:
In cases of cardiac arrest, time is everything. Community responders can save lives

Importantly, anyone who has any worrying symptoms should seek medical advice, especially fainting or collapse during exercise.

Finally, research projects such as the Australian End Unexplained Cardiac Death (EndUCD) registry are urgently needed to identify the underlying causes of cardiac death in young people so we can prevent deaths from sudden cardiac arrest.The Conversation

Jessica Orchard, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centenary Institute; and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We shouldn’t blame young people for ‘jumping the queue’ to get a COVID vaccine. They could be doing us a favour

Diego S. Silva, University of SydneyOver recent weeks, we’ve seen reports some Australians under 40 who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine have been getting their first dose.

These are people who don’t fall into a priority group outlined by the federal government, and are not eligible under the current rules in their state or territory.

These young people have been described as “queue jumping”. Although some might be jumping the queue, most, in my view, are not doing anything wrong.

Besides, given how slowly the vaccine rollout is progressing in Australia, these eager young folks may actually be doing us all a favour.

What exactly is going on?

It appears some younger ineligible Australians are getting the Pfizer vaccine, while others are choosing to take the AstraZenca vaccine.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised people under 60 (previously people under 50) should not be given the AstraZenca vaccine because of the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a rare but serious blood clotting disorder.

Some younger Australians are accepting this risk in order to get the AstraZeneca vaccine before they’re eligible for Pfizer.

But how are young Australians who are not technically eligible getting either vaccine in the first place? Reports suggest there are three ways:

  • they’re showing up at the vaccination sites and seeing if they can get a vaccine at the discretion of health-care staff, presumably if there’s no one else scheduled at that time
  • they’re registering online through the regular channels. They’re providing their information truthfully and the system is allowing them to book in
  • they’re using online links that were intended for people who are actually eligible (for example, household contacts of health-care workers).

Read more:
Even if Olympians are jumping the COVID vaccine queue, that’s not necessarily wrong. A bioethicist explains

It’s important to note the context here. Some evidence suggests there’s a higher level of vaccine hesitancy than predicted or desired among Australians (around one-third of all adults).

The rollout of the vaccine in Australia has been slow and troubled for a variety of reasons, including changing safety advice and logistical issues.

Mixed messaging from politicians doesn’t help. For example, claims the vaccination rollout is “not a race” are off the mark. Speed is in fact of the essence.

A young woman wearing a mask with a bandaid on her upper arm.
Young Australians managing to get in early for their COVID jab are either just showing up, or booking online.

Most younger Australians are not queue jumping

From an ethical standpoint, what matters is making sure you don’t potentially disadvantage or harm other people who are in greater need of the vaccine than you are.

Generally speaking, if there are good reasons provided for the order in which a scarce resource will be allocated, no individual person should cheat their fellow resident from that resource by disregarding the allocation process.

While Australia’s priority list is morally defensible, I would argue there’s little “queue jumping” occurring.

Read more:
4 ways Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout has been bungled

First, those younger Australians choosing to take the AstraZenca vaccine are not taking away a scarce resource. There is plenty of the AstraZenca vaccine, although the Pfizer vaccine is in much shorter supply.

There may be an ethical question about whether younger people should be offered the AstraZenca vaccine at all given the risk of TTS and ATAGI’s recommendations. But assuming people are giving their free and informed consent, we can set aside this concern for now.

Those younger ineligible Australians who are taking the Pfizer vaccine may be said to be jumping the queue. But if they’re telling the truth when enrolling online, or perhaps waiting until the end of the day to use a dose that would otherwise go to waste — and a health-care worker at a vaccination centre is giving them permission to be vaccinated — they can’t be accused of queue jumping.

The rules around allocation, and the enforcement of those rules, cannot rest with each individual, but rather lies with those in charge of delivering vaccines. If there are spare vaccine doses to be had, this suggests there’s a system failure at some point between vaccine procurement and delivery.

The only people who could be rightfully accused of queue jumping are those who register for vaccines with links that aren’t meant for them. Doing so is a clear intent to bypass the rules and enforcement mechanisms in place.

We want vaccines in arms

Unless people who are eligible and want to receive the Pfizer vaccine are being denied access — and I haven’t heard this is happening, at least not because of queue jumping — then the default should be to vaccinate as many Australians as possible, as quickly as possible.

We know individuals won’t be as safe as they could be until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated. We also know our vaccine rollout is well behind schedule.

So if anything, we should be thanking younger Australians for doing their part to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccination rates in this country.

Read more:
We may never achieve long-term global herd immunity for COVID. But if we’re all vaccinated, we’ll be safe from the worst

The Conversation

Diego S. Silva, Lecturer, Sydney Health Ethics, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Youth anxiety and depression are at record levels. Mental health hubs could be the answer


Christine Grové, Monash UniversityThe COVID pandemic has shone a light on the ongoing decline in young people’s mental health. Psychologists have warned if we don’t start to address the mental health emergency of young people’s anxiety and depression, it may become a “trans-generational disaster”.

Paediatricians have said they are seeing growing numbers of young people coming to the emergency room because of a lack of other treatment options.

In an effort to address the rising rates of anxiety and depression in children, Victoria trialled mental well-being coordinators in ten schools last year. The initiative is now expanding to 26 primary schools in 2021.

Meanwhile, the royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system has recommended youth mental health hubs, some of which will soon be rolled out in priority areas across the state.

Developing specialist youth mental health hubs is one of several strategies also suggested by the Australian Psychological Society to the federal government in a recent budget submission.

So, what are youth mental health hubs, and will they work to stem the tide of mental health issues young people are experiencing?

Everything in one place

Australia’s National Strategy for Young Australians defines youth as young people between 12-24 years of age. Evidence shows half of mental disorders first emerge by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24.

Left untreated, these mental health problems have high rates of recurrence and cause negative outcomes for the individual, including reduced economic productivity, as well as social costs.

Read more:
We’ve been tracking young people’s mental health since 2006. COVID has accelerated a worrying decline

Youth mental health hubs provide mental health and social services in one location. This is partly because a range of risk behaviours come with mental health difficulties including tobacco, drug and alcohol use, sexual risk taking, reduced levels of physical activity and poor nutrition. Evidence also suggests young people prefer to have their needs met in one place, rather than across a number of locations and will then be more likely to seek help when they need it.

Youth hubs should therefore have a range of specialists on site, such as trained mental health clinicians, sexual health support counsellors and psychiatrists.

Young people also want and need access to mental health information and resources. So a youth hub should be a safe place for young people to get the information they need.

Youth hubs would be connected physically and/or in partnership with schools, community organisations (such as homelessness services) and with medical specialists.

They are ideally co-designed by experts and youth with lived experience, on equal grounds. Ideally, the hubs are a youth friendly, one-stop-shop for support ranging from referrals, assessment, therapies and intervention.

Don’t we already have youth hubs?

Traditionally, mental health services, including some youth services, have not been accessible to a range of youth needs, instead targeting children or adults. Others are geared towards specific certain types of conditions.

In Australia there are two youth-specific hubs: Orygen and Headspace.

Orygen is co-designed with young people. But it specialises in youth who have had an episode of psychosis, mood disorders, emerging borderline personality disorder, and youth at high risk for a psychotic disorder.

Headspace centres provide early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds. The service was created to provide youth with holistic mental health support. But there are shortcomings with the model. It has been described by some experts as not being able to support some youth with complex presentations such as those with personality disorders, schizophrenia and/or substance abuse issues.

Read more:
Budget funding for Beyond Blue and Headspace is welcome. But it may not help those who need it most

Many other services restrict youth access to support depending on age, diagnosis or additional illness.

Youth engagement in non-youth focused specific services is low, and transitioning youth between and across services is often unsuccessful.

Young people also prefer services that include young people as staff members, which is not common in traditional mental health support. Youth participation as staff was found in only just over half of the mental health services available in Australia.

A young woman talking to a young psychologist.
Young people prefer mental health support that is youth led.

So, what is the ideal youth hub?

There are youth hubs available across the world, including in Ireland, New Zealand, UK, Canada, France and Australia. All of these provide different services and care. However none provide a single example of best practice yet.

Key elements of youth mental health hubs identified in the World Health Organisation framework include:

  • a co-designed youth-focused approach that is flexible and adapted to youth’s changing mental health needs
  • an accessible, central location (close to shops or transport), with extended spread of opening hours as well as opportunity for self-referral and drop-in services
  • a place that responds to all young people quickly
  • youth working in the hub
  • services and support types personalised as needed by the context.

Research also suggests the hubs should be an informal space, as opposed to clinical looking, such as a shop front or café design. They should also:

  • provide recreational or arts activities, as well as a hang-out space
  • be included and known by the community
  • keep ongoing evaluation of the services provided and provide feedback back to young people.

Keeping all services in one location works well, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a coordinated, collaborative approach to care is provided. Some hubs may house a range of services in one spot but continue to work in a separated way. This defeats the purpose of coordinated care.

Read more:
Stressed out, dropping out: COVID has taken its toll on uni students

We need better investment to improve current hubs or co-design new ones to enact the WHO guidelines of best practice. This is critical to ensuring more young people access the care they need, for the success of current and future generations.The Conversation

Christine Grové, Senior Lecturer and Educational and Developmental Psychologist, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We’ve been tracking young people’s mental health since 2006. COVID has accelerated a worrying decline


Zlatko Skrbis, Australian Catholic University; Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, Australian Catholic University, and Jonathan Smith, Australian Catholic University

We have been following more than 2,000 Queenslanders from their adolescence into adulthood. The aim of the Our Lives study is to investigate how young people think about their future and how they master their trajectories in a world of rapid change and uncertainty.

In 2006, our research team began tracking more than 7,000 students who began high school in Queensland at the age of 13. Since then, the study has become the largest and longest of school leavers in Australia post the global financial crisis. The cohort turns 27 this year.

Every two years, we survey this cohort about their developing aspirations and experiences in work, study, housing, relationships and family. We also explore changes in their social attitudes and mental and physical health.

We did a special survey in June 2020 in response to COVID-19. We wanted to understand how the cohort had been affected since the previous survey six months earlier, in late 2019.

Among our findings are a sharp decline in mental health between 2019 and June 2020, especially among respondents living in urban areas and those without secure work. Marriage or de facto partnerships seem to be a buffer against sharper declines seen in young people who are single or living with housemates.

A decline in mental well-being

At the age of 22, in 2015, 82% of respondents described their mental health as excellent, very good or good. This fell to 70% at the age of 26 in 2019 — a drop of three percentage points per year.

But, only six months into the next year 2020 (in June), this figure had already fallen by a further four percentage points, to 66%. These data suggest changes in the young people’s lives during the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the existing downward trend in their mental well-being.

How different demographics have fared

Research has indicated women are more adversely affected than men by recessions, both economically and psychologically.

In line with this, the female participants in our study displayed significantly worse mental health during COVID than their male counterparts. The proportion of 27 year old males who described their mental health as excellent, very good or good in June 2020 was 70.5% compared to 63.5% for females.

Read more:
Young women are hit doubly hard by recessions, especially this one

Young adults living in major city areas, where COVID cases have largely been concentrated, experienced a decline in mental health — from 68.7% in 2019 to 62.2% in 2020. But the proportion of those living in rural areas actually rose from 70.9% in 2019 to 72.2% in 2020.

By their mid-twenties, a major gap emerged in the well-being of people with and without secure work. In 2015, when participants were 22 years old, 82.4% with permanent, ongoing work rated their mental health good to excellent, compared to 68.5% in 2020. The results were 77.6% in 2015 for those who were unemployed compared to 54.1% in 2020.


Emergency welfare measures, such as the JobKeeper wage subsidy and increase to JobSeeker, may have temporarily prevented this gap from widening.

One of Australia’s top mental health experts, Professor Ian Hickie, has argued an extension to JobKeeper and greater financial support for students in post-school education and training are critical for mitigating the predicted surge in youth mental illness.

What about relationships?

Security in young adults’ housing and relationships appears to provide a key buffer against the negative psychological impacts of COVID-19. Our data show young adults living out of home, or with a partner (married or de facto) report substantially better mental health in June 2020 than those who are single and living with parents.

Young people in who were living with housemates during the COVID-19 period experienced the sharpest decline in positive mental health.

Social distancing took its toll on the Our Lives cohort during the national restriction period, with 39% reporting feelings of loneliness or isolation. There were also signs of strain and conflict in the young people’s relationships with those in their household.

Around one-quarter of the sample reported a lack of personal space or alone time, while 16% reported experiencing greater tension and conflict in the household. These outcomes increased young adults’ chances of experiencing a major decline in mental health during the lockdown period.

However, the effects of stay-at-home restrictions were not inherently negative. For many young adults, restrictions provided more time for themselves (38%) and encouraged stronger relationships with partners or family (33%). These outcomes were associated with significantly lower chances of a decline in mental health.

It’s vital young people have good access to youth mental health services in the months ahead so their mental health doesn’t continue to drastically decline. This is particularly the case for young people who may be less able to turn to parents, partners or friends for help.

Research has consistently found young people with mental health issues are the least likely to seek out mental health information and access professional help when they need it.

Read more:
As ‘lockdown fatigue’ sets in, the toll on mental health will require an urgent response

There is hope that the collective experience of social distancing during COVID-19 may have helped reduce some of the stigma associated with seeking help. If this is the case, we must seize the opportunity to learn from the experience of the young people in our cohort and the Australians they represent.

For mental health, go to Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636The Conversation

Zlatko Skrbis, Provost, Australian Catholic University; Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, Research Fellow in Sociology, Australian Catholic University, and Jonathan Smith, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian Catholic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Distress, depression and drug use: young people fear for their future after the bushfires


Amy Lykins, University of New England

This week, the bushfire royal commission is due to hand down its findings. Already, the commission’s officials have warned the status quo is “no longer enough to defend us from the impact of global warming”.

Australia’s young people appear to know this all too well. Preliminary findings from our recent research show many young people are worried about the future. And those directly exposed to the Black Summer bushfires suffered mental health problems long after the flames went out.

Young people with direct exposure to the bushfires reported significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety, and more drug and alcohol use, than those not directly exposed.

It’s clear that along with the other catastrophic potential harm caused by climate change, the mental health of young people is at risk. We must find effective ways to help young people cope with climate change anxiety.

Concern about the future

Our yet-to-be published study was conducted between early March and early June this year. It involved 740 young people in New South Wales between the ages of 16 and 25 completing a series of standardised questionnaires about their current emotional state, and their concerns about climate change.

Our early findings were presented at the International Association of People-Environment Studies (IAPS) conference online earlier this year.

Some 57% of respondents lived in metropolitan areas and 43% in rural or regional areas. About 78.3% were female, about 20.4% male and around 1% preferred not to say.

Overall, just over 18% of the respondents had been directly exposed to the bushfires over the past year. About the same percentage had been directly exposed to drought in that period, and more than 83% were directly exposed to bushfire smoke.

Our preliminary results showed respondents with direct exposure to the Black Summer bushfires reported significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress, adjustment disorder symptoms, and drug and alcohol use than those not directly exposed to these bushfires.

A banner reads: Sorry kids, we burned your inheritance
Many of the respondents were clearly concerned about the future.

Many young people were clearly concerned about the future. One 16 year old female respondent from a rural/regional area told us:

From day to day, if it crosses my mind I do get a bit distressed […] knowing that not enough is being done to stop or slow down the effects of climate change is what makes me very distressed as our future and future generations are going to have to deal with this problem.

Another 24 year old female respondent from a rural/regional area said:

It makes me feel incredibly sad. Sad when I think about the animals it will effect [sic]. Sad when I think about the world my son is growing up in. Sad to think that so many people out there do not believe it is real and don’t care how their actions effect [sic] the planet, and all of us. Sad that the people in the position to do something about it, won’t.

Young people directly exposed to drought also showed higher levels of anxiety and stress than non-exposed youth.

‘I feel like climate change is here now’

Those with direct exposure to bushfires were more likely than non-exposed young people to believe climate change was:

  • going to affect them or people they knew
  • likely to affect areas near where they lived
  • likely to affect them in the nearer future.

Both groups were equally likely — and highly likely — to believe that the environment is fragile and easily damaged by human activity, and that serious damage from human activity is already occurring and could soon have catastrophic consequences for both nature and humans.

One 23 year old female respondent from a metropolitan area told us:

I feel like climate change is here now and is just getting worse and worse as time goes on.

One 19 year old male respondent from a metropolitan area said:

I feel scared because of what will happen to my future kids, that they may not have a good future because I feel that this planet won’t last any longer because of our wasteful activities.

When asked how climate change makes them feel, answers varied. Some were not at all concerned (with a minority questioning whether it was even happening). Others reported feeling scared, worried, anxious, sad, angry, nervous, concerned for themselves and/or future generations, depressed, terrified, confused, and helpless.

One 16 year old female respondent in a metropolitan area told us:

I feel quite angry because the people who should be doing something about it aren’t because it won’t affect them in the future but it will affect me.

Though they were slightly more upbeat about their own futures and the future of humanity, a significant proportion expressed qualified or no hope, with consistent criticisms about humanity’s selfishness and lack of willpower to make needed behavioural changes.

One 21 year old female respondent from a metropolitan area said she felt:

a bit dissappointed [sic], people have the chance to help and take action, but they just don’t care. I feel sad as the planet will eventually react to the damage we have done, and by then, it will be too late.

A young woman in a mask looks down.
Many participants listed COVID-19 as an extra stressor in their life.

Extra stressors

Many participants listed COVID-19 as an extra stressor in their life. One 18 year old female said:

Slightly unrelated but after seeing all of the impacts on a lot of people during the COVID-19 pandemic, all of my hope for humanity is gone.

A 25 year old woman told us:

Due to the fact of this COVID stuff, we are not going to be able to do a lot of activitys (sic) that we did before this virus shit happen (sic).

A 16 year old male said:

At present with how people have reacted over the COVID-19 virus there is no hope for humanity. Everyone has become selfish and entitled.

Irrespective of bushfire exposure, respondents reported experiencing moderate levels of depression, moderate to severe anxiety and mild stress. They also reported drug and alcohol use at levels that, according to the UNCOPE substance use screening tool, suggested cause for concern.

What does this mean?

We are still analysing the data we collected, but our preliminary results strongly suggest climate change is linked to how hopeful young people feel about the future.

We are already locked into a significant degree of warming — the only questions are just how bad will it get and how quickly.

Young people need better access to mental health services and support. It’s clear we must find effective ways to help young people build psychological resilience to bushfires, and other challenges climate change will bring.

University of New England researchers Suzanne Cosh, Melissa Parsons, Belinda Craig
and Clara Murray contributed to this research. Don Hine from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand was also a contributor.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Amy Lykins, Associate Professor, University of New England

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

5 charts on how COVID-19 is hitting Australia’s young adults hard

Jan Kabatek, University of Melbourne

The following five charts provide a snapshot of how COVID-19 is affecting Australians aged 18-24. Though the health impacts of the coronavirus fall most on the elderly, it is young adults that have been hit hardest by the economic and psychological costs of the pandemic response.

The data for the charts comes from results gleaned from two major surveys run by the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne.

The first is the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. Since 2001 this survey has collected information from about 17,000 Australians each year.

The second is the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey. The Melbourne Institute has been running this bi-weekly survey since March, polling 1,200 people over the age of 18, to track Australians’ expectations and attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Huge job losses

Between March and April, ABS figures show almost 600,000 of Australian workers – about 3% of the workforce – lost their jobs. Our data shows these losses were concentrated among young workers, with almost one in three (28%) workers aged 18-24 losing their jobs.

While things have since improved (with the end of lockdowns in most states), the employment rate of young Australian adults remains just under 60% (though with distinct state differences).

On top of that, half of workers aged 18-24 who managed to keep their jobs during the pandemic reported having had their regular working hours cut. This compares to a third of workers aged 25 or more.

The disproportionate impact on youth employment is likely driven by two factors.

First, more young adults work in industries directly affected by border closures, travel restrictions and social-distancing measures (hospitality, retail, culture and leisure). Past Melbourne Institute research indicates more than half of all workers in the most-affected industries are aged 18-24 (compared with 19% aged 25-34, and less than 12% aged 35-44).

Second, half of workers aged 18-24 are on casual contracts (79% in the most-affected industries). Having little-to-no employment protection, they have been most expendable during the downturn.

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2. The Victorian divergence

The previous chart tells the “average” Australian story. But there has been a distinct divergence between Victoria and the rest of Australia since late July. With Melbourne’s “second wave” and subsequent restrictions, the employment rate for Victorians aged 18-24 remains at just 46%, compared with 45% in April.

In contrast, the employment rate for those aged 18-24 in other states has bounced back strongly. This is encouraging, suggesting the negative effects of COVID-19 on Victorian youth employment may also be relatively quickly reversed.

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3. Mental distress has skyrocketed

Our data shows a significant increase in the number of young Australians reporting mental distress.

Almost a quarter (23%) of those aged 18-24 report high levels of mental distress, compared to 9% in 2017. Only those aged 25-34 report more mental distress, due to the stresses felt by employed parents with primary school-aged children.

4. Financial stress varies

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of people (63%) who have lost their job due to the pandemic report high levels of financial stress.

These people represented about 40% of the unemployed in our survey. What is surprising is that our respondents who considered themselves unemployed for other reasons were, on average, less stressed than those with jobs. This likely reflects the relief existing Newstart recipients felt due to the doubling of the welfare payment during the pandemic.

5. Young women more affected

Young women are much more likely than men to report losing their job due to COVID-19 – 45% of unemployed females aged 18-24, compared with 34% of unemployed males.

Our data further indicate young women are more likely to report high levels of mental distress – 24% of females, compared with 21% of males).

These larger effects likely reflect women’s greater representation in the industries directly affected by COVID-19, and increased caring responsibilities during the pandemic.The Conversation

Jan Kabatek, Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

No festivals, no schoolies: young people are missing out on vital rites of passage during COVID

Ben Green, Griffith University and Andy Bennett, Griffith University

As we approach the end of a uniquely challenging school year, the class of 2020 look set to miss out on many of the usual highlights of year 12.

Graduation ceremonies, formals, schoolies week and summer music festivals have either been cancelled or restricted.

Meanwhile, those who may have been planning a gap year overseas are not able to leave the country.

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So far, public discussion of these cancellations have understandably focused on the risks posed by COVID and the possible mental health impacts on young people.

But young people aren’t just missing out on a chance to wear fancy clothes or party with their mates. Events like schoolies and formals also have a profound social purpose as rites of passage.

What are rites of passage?

Rites of passage are rituals that accompany changes in social status for individuals and groups. Their importance has been recognised by social researchers for more than a century.

In ethnographer Arnold Van Gennep’s original 1909 work, which is still broadly accepted by researchers, rites of passage share three basic phases:

  • a symbolic separation from normality, such as by travel or costumes
  • an in-between stage, in which social norms and hierarchies are cast off and people embrace a community spirit
  • a ceremonial confirmation of the new state of affairs, often with symbols like a ring or crown.

This creates a transformative experience for people. It marks a change as special, by stepping outside ordinary life.

The brief upturn in the social order also allows the community to strengthen its bonds and reaffirm its support for the broader, existing social system.

Traditional rites of passage are in decline

For young people today, ceremonies like school graduations or schoolies trips are even more important than for previous generations.

Declining rates of religious affiliation means religious coming-of-age has also declined in importance. Changing social norms also mean events like debutante balls and weddings are no longer common practice for teenagers and those in their early 20s.

Meanwhile, traditional economic markers of growing up – such as moving out of home, and starting full-time work – are also proving more elusive for young people, thanks to challenging job and housing markets.

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Schoolies, gap years are even more important

This means other cultural traditions are a critical part of how young people transition to adulthood.

Often when we talk about “muck up” days, schoolies and gap years, debates focus (not always fairly) on the risks involved with young people who are celebrating and testing boundaries.

A crowded Cavil Mall on the Gold Coast during schoolies.
The Queensland government has cancelled official schoolies celebrations due to COVID.
Dean Saffron/AAP

But research has shown how schoolies and gap year travel act as rituals to mark and manage the otherwise often unremarkable transition to adulthood.

These episodes provide a meaningful break with normal life and past identity. They see young people leave their comfort zone to experience a sense of community with their peers, before moving to the next stage of life.

Similarly, music festivals, while not one-off events, can also provide these experiences. Nightclubs and parties – which have also been significantly curtailed during COVID – are also spaces to escape everyday rules and experience communal energy within the broader period of emerging adulthood.

Lasting impacts?

In addition to the impact on education – which has yet to be fully understood – there are other ways in which the class of 2020 may be roundly disadvantaged.

COVID-19 has changed so many of the cultural experiences young people use to make their way into adulthood.

So, what might be the lasting consequences for this year’s school leavers?

Nightclub, with disco ball, smoke machine and people dancing.
Nightclubs are a place for young people to escape everyday rules.

Missing out on rites of passage like schoolies week and festivals could mar the transition into adult society in subtle but palpable ways.

Without such cultural experiences it is harder to know when this change has really happened, to respect its significance and feel a sense of belonging in one’s new social role.

As per Van Gennep’s work, this cohort of young people is also missing chances to bond as a community and to reaffirm their commitment to the social order by temporarily disrupting it.

This is why, in the absence of formal rites of passage, people develop their own replacements, for better or worse. Recent reports of an impromptu rave inside a kebab shop show that young people will find other ways of crossing boundaries together – testing both legal and social norms.

Read more:
‘It really sucks’: how some Year 12 students in Queensland feel about 2020

On a more positive note, our ongoing research with young people about making music during COVID-19 is showing their resilience and creativity in balancing safety with social needs. Online performances are providing some missing ritual and social media also allows a level of community experience.

While we maintain our focus on community health and safety, we must recognise that what might look like frivolous or risky activities can have huge significance for young people as they move into adulthood.

This means they also have huge significance for our society more broadly.The Conversation

Ben Green, Postdoctoral resident adjunct, Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University and Andy Bennett, Professor, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recessions scar young people their entire lives, even into retirement


Jenny Chesters, University of Melbourne

It is well-established that recessions hit young people the hardest.

We saw it in our early 1980s recession, our early 1990s recession, and in the one we are now entering.

The latest payroll data shows that for most age groups, employment fell 5% to 6% between mid-March and May. For workers in their 20s, it fell 10.7%

The most dramatic divergence in the fortunes of young and older Australians came in the mid 1970s recession when the unemployment rate for those aged 15-19 shot up from 4% to 10% in the space of one year. A year later it was 12%, and 15% a year after that.

Unemployment rates 1971-1977

ABS 6203.0

At the time, 15 to 19 years of age was when young people got jobs. Only one third completed Year 12.

What is less well known is how long the effects lasted. They seem to be present more than 40 years later.

The Australians who were 15 to 19 years old at the time of the mid-1970s recession were born in the early 1960s.

In almost every recent subjective well-being survey they have performed worse that those born before or after that period.

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Subjective well-being is determined by asking respondents how satisified they are with their lives on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is totally dissatisfied and 10 is totally satisfied.

Australia’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics survey (HILDA) has been asking the question since 2001.

In order to fairly compare the life satisfaction of different generations it is necessary to adjust the findings to compensate for other things known to affect satisfaction including income, gender, marital status, education and employment status.

Doing that and selecting the 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 surveys to examine how children born at the start of the 1960s have fared relative to those born earlier and later, shows that regardless of their age at the time of the survey, they are less satisfied than those born at other times.

Subjective wellbeing by birth cohort over four HILDA surveys

Subjective well-being on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is totally dissatisfied and 10 is totally satisfied.
Regressions available upon request

The consistency of lower levels of subjective well-being reported by the 1961-1965 birth cohort suggests something has had a lasting effect.

An obvious candidate is the dramatic increase in the rate of youth unemployment in at the time many of this age group were trying to get a job.

Over time, labour markets can recover but the scars of entering the labour market during a time of sudden high unemployment can be permanent.

Read more:
The next employment challenge from coronavirus: how to help the young

The impacts of the early 1980s and early 1990s recessions on young people were alleviated somewhat by the doubling of the Year 12 retention rate and later by the doubling of university enrolments.

But the education sector is maxed out and might not be able to perform the same trick for the third recession in a row.

Reinvigorating apprenticeships and providing cadetships for non-trade occupations might help. Otherwise the effects of the 2020 recession on an unlucky group of Australians might stay with us for a very long time.The Conversation

Jenny Chesters, Senior Lecturer/ Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Iran violence increasing, Christians are concerned

Riot police attacked hundreds of demonstrators with tear gas and fired live bullets in the air to disperse a rally in central Tehran Monday, reports MNN. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard issued a warning to demonstrators that they would face a “revolutionary confrontation” if they continued to protest results of the June 12 presidential vote. It’s unclear how many people have died or have been injured in the unrest.

Despite the violence SAT-7 PARS — Christian Persian satellite television — continues to beam programming into Iran, says SAT-7’s David Harder. Harder says SAT-7 isn’t taking sides politically, but they are concerned. “We are concerned about the innocent being injured. We have many youth who watch SAT-7 PARS, and we are concerned that they may have gotten caught up in these different clashes where, tragically, people are being killed.”

Harder isn’t surprised by the violence. “It reflects the desire that many people have–especially young people–in that country for some greater freedoms, and often that’s leading people to seek spiritual answers,” he says.

Satellite television is still illegal in Iran, but SAT-7 PARS continues broadcasting even though some channels have been blocked. Harder says, “Those who may be disenchanted with the political situation, whatever it is, can still seek and find answers and find the truth in the Lord Jesus by watching SAT-7 PARS.”

While their programming continues, Harder says he’s still concerned for Christians living there. “Often when there is anti-western sentiment, Christians are the scapegoats. Local Christians are blamed. So, we do have concern for the Christians and the churches in Iran, and we’re praying they’re not blamed for being political agitators.”

SAT-7 believes about 1-million people watch SAT-7 PARS, but Harder believes that’s a low estimate. He says the number of Christians in Iran is growing, and they need help. “There is reported to be a great movement of house churches within Iran. And so we want to provide training for house church leaders. Often the people who are leading these house churches have only been followers of Jesus for a short period of time.”

That’s why they’ve started a broadcast called SOTA, which stands for Seminary of the Air. Harder says, “They are Iranian professors, and they can help answer questions that really reflect life in Iran and help these churches grow. We want to see them become self-sustaining with leaders who are being equipped and then can be successful in leading those churches.”

SAT-7 PARS, says Harder, is also broadcasting programming for youth. “75-percent of Iranians are under age 30. So we’re trying to meet the needs of the youth who are watching, as well.”

Christian satellite radio and television programming is essential for spiritual growth for Christians in Iran. “There simply aren’t many resources for Iranian Christians. For many of them, television and radio are just about the only way they can get resources. For some people, they can’t get a Bible. They write down verses as they see them on the screen.”

Report from the Christian Telegraph