New research shows spike in mental health impacts of study stress on Aussie students in 2021

15 Oct 2021

New research by mental health organisation ReachOut shows a significant increase in the severity of study stress for young Australians this year, with approximately one third of students reporting that study stress is currently having a major impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing, up from 18 per cent in December 2020.*

Conducted in September 2021, the survey found that the number of young people reporting poor mental health or wellbeing as a result of study stress has doubled from 25 per cent in previous years to 56 per cent this year.  

The survey also showed some of the impacts that study stress is having on the lives of students in 2021 with the added pressures of COVID-19 restrictions. The number of students unable to focus doubled to 68 per cent, up from 33 per cent in December 2020. 57 per cent were having trouble sleeping, up from 32 per cent in December 2020. 39 per cent reported poor nutrition, up from 18 per cent in December 2020 and 32 per cent reported that they had experienced issues with their family, up from 16 per cent in December 2020. 

When asked about studying this year and navigating the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions, 40 per cent said it’s been difficult to learn content needed for exams, one in five said they didn’t have an appropriate place to study and 23 per cent said their plans for study or work after school have changed. 

Despite the increased impact of study stress on young people, fewer young people are getting support for study stress. In 2019, 85 per cent accessed support from family, friends or professional services, while in 2021 this had dropped to 78 per cent. 

Ashley de Silva, CEO of ReachOut, said that it was worrying to see students in such high distress and highlighted the support that is available. 

“The results of ReachOut’s new research shows that this has been a stressful year for students. It's taking a real toll on their mental health and the fundamentals such as sleep, nutrition and their relationships. 

“ReachOut undertakes research with students about study stress each year and it is concerning to see such a jump in these figures. 

“With Term 4 in full swing and some students preparing to return to face-to-face learning, thousands of students across the country still have significant challenges to face before the end of the year. This is particularly true for Year 12 students who are approaching their final exams. 

“Now is the time for students to take a proactive approach to looking after their mental health and to seek professional support if they need it. 

“High numbers of young people have indicated in this most recent research that information about how to cope with study stress, connecting with others going through the same thing and psychological support would help them right now. We want to remind students that ReachOut has information about study stress, tips, online communities and pathways to further support,” he said. 

For more information about ReachOut visit ReachOut.com, ReachOut.com/Parents and ReachOut.com/Schools. 

Young people and parents can also access ReachOut’s online communities to connect with others for peer support. 

*National surveys of over 1000 young people (aged 14-25) across Australia conducted in September 2021 and December 2020 by ReachOut. 

ENDS

Media contact 

Tessa Anderssen / tessa@reachout.com / 0411 708 587 

Interviews

Yr 12 case studies - NSW & VIC

CEO of ReachOut, Ashley de Silva 

ReachOut’s study stress resources

https://au.reachout.com/study-work-and-money/exam-stress 

https://au.reachout.com/study-work-and-money/school-and-study 

https://au.reachout.com/articles/quiz-checking-in-with-yourself 

Key stats

DECEMBER 2020

SEPTEMBER 2021

Report that study stress is having a major impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing

18%

33%

Very or extremely stressed about study and exams

39%

42%

Moderately to extremely stressed about study

68%

78% 

Unable to focus

33%

68%

Trouble sleeping

32%

59%

Poor mental health or wellbeing

25%

57%

Poor nutrition 

18%

39%

Issues with family

16%

32%

Sought help for study stress (e.g. spoke to a parent/friend, or sought professional help).

85%

78%

About ReachOut

ReachOut is the most accessed online mental health service for young people and their parents in Australia. Their trusted self-help information, peer-support program and referral tools save lives by helping young people be well and stay well. The information they offer parents makes it easier for them to help their teenagers, too.

ReachOut has been championing wider access to mental health support since they launched their online service more than 20 years ago. Everything they create is based on the latest evidence and is designed with experts, and young people or their parents. That’s why ReachOut is a trusted, relevant service that’s so easy to use.

Accessed by more than 2 million people in Australia each year, ReachOut is a free service that’s available anytime and pretty much anywhere.

Safe reporting 

ReachOut encourages all media to follow the Mindframe safe reporting guidelines: https://mindframe.org.au/mental-health/communicating-about-mental-ill-health 

Authors