Economic uncertainty driving exam stress

24 Sep 2018

Two thirds of young people are now experiencing worrying levels of exam stress, with growing concerns about getting a job and the future driving it, frontline youth service ReachOut has found.

ReachOut’s research, a nationally-representative survey of 1000 Australian young people aged between 14 and 25, showed an increase in young people experiencing worrying levels of exam stress, which had increased from 51.2 per cent in 2017 to 65.1 per cent in 2018.

New rising sources of this stress included: the future generally (2017: 37.1 per cent vs 2018: 42.8 per cent); and getting a job (2017: 29.6 per cent vs 2018: 38.2 per cent). Traditional exam pressures such as parents, schools and access to university courses decreased over the same period. Pressure from self was another increasing source of exam stress (2017: 64.9 per cent vs 2018: 69.1 per cent).

Launching the ReachOut@ExamTime campaign, which provides support for young people and parents coping with exam stress, ReachOut CEO Ashley de Silva said economic uncertainty was on the rise as a contributing factor to exam stress.

“Exam stress amongst young people continues to grow at worrying levels, yet we are seeing the source of that pressure changing,” Mr de Silva said.

“With a growing number of young people worried about the future, this is likely linked to economic uncertainty, including job prospects and housing affordability.

“ReachOut is on the frontline each year providing support to young people with exam stress, including resources on stress about the future. With the research showing that the number of students seeking help online for exam stress has almost tripled, is a great place to start,” he said.

Mr de Silva said it was not all bad news, with the number of young people seeking help for exam stress increasing from 21.5 per cent to 28.2 per cent last year. In particular, those who sought help from a mental health or medical professional doubled from 15.5 per cent to 30.5 per cent in the past 12 months.

“The best thing young people stressed about exams can do is to get help and get help early. It’s also important to look for ways to manage stress, including taking breaks, regular exercise and spending time with friends,” Mr de Silva said.

Students can head to to access articles, videos, quizzes and tips to help them cope with exam stress. Click here to go direct to ReachOut’s content about future stress.

Parents can head to ReachOut.cpm/parents for information about how to support their young person when it comes to exam stress.

Tips For Students Worried About the Future

1. Remember there's not just one direct path to your future. It’s a series of choices and a fair bit of trial and error that you can learn from as you go.

2. When you’re feeling overwhelmed about the future, start by asking yourself a few questions. You can start with things like what do I enjoy, what am I good at, what lifestyle appeals to me, do I need to study? You could use the answers to put together a mindmap of all the possible options.

3. Focussing on what’s within your control will increase your confidence. You could organise a chat with someone who has studied an area you’re interested in, attend TAFE or Uni Open Days or set up some work experience to learn more about different roles and industries.

4. Keep the self-talk positive. Remember you’re good enough just as you are now, regardless of what you choose to do with your life.

5. Even when exams are looming, make time for the things that make you feel good. This could be something like catching up with friends, going for a run, or even something really small like listening to your fave new podcast in your study break.

About ReachOut Australia

ReachOut has been changing the way people access help since launching as the world’s first online mental health service nearly 20 years ago. Everything they create is based on the latest evidence and designed with experts, and young people or their parents. This is why ReachOut’s digital self-help tools are trusted, relevant and easy to use.

Available for free anytime and pretty much anywhere, ReachOut is accessed by 132,000 people in Australia every month. That’s more than 1.58 million each year.