Why are students on the pursuit of wellbeing?
It seems that the idea of wellbeing is all around us these days. Your Facebook newsfeed is abuzz with articles popping up like How to meditate when you don’t like meditating and Eight tips for getting a better night’s sleep. Never before have we seen so much content, brands and products discussing and promoting overall wellbeing, particularly nudged at our demographic. We’re taking the hint and soaking up all the advice of “You do you”. Is it because our generation is less happy?
The current state of the world
Looking at the current state of the world suggests we are, with good reason. The political landscape and global affairs are indeed adding to a lack of faith in the world as we mourn 2016 for events like Brexit and the election of Trump. Fittingly, Trump’s election has seen a huge spike in the sales of dystopian fiction predicting the demise of the world, with George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale currently taking out the top selling titles in book stores.
The pressure is on our generation to fix the state of the world. All we have to do is elect a new government, stop the war, solve world hunger and find a solution to global warming. Perhaps the pressure of this tall order is taking away the optimism of our futures. With a bleak picture of World War III on the horizon and a crumbling society, who can blame our generation for an existentialist outlook?
Mental health awareness
There has been a much greater focus over the last few years on raising awareness for mental health problems, particularly among the young demographic. A more accepting culture has been created where people can speak up about their mental health and hopefully get the help and assistance they need. This is opposed to previous generations who have told us they used to “just get on with it”.
We’re taking the hint and soaking up all the advice of 'You do you'. Is it because our generation is less happy?
This awareness has most likely been the reason why there’s been a drastic rise in the rates of mental illness among young people, particularly incidences of depression and anxiety. One of the largest national student surveys of mental health recently conducted by Headspace and the National Union of Students had startling results, finding that the majority of Australian TAFE and university students are stressed or living with a mental health issue. The survey found that almost 70 per cent of students rated their mental health as “poor or fair”, while two thirds of participants reported experiencing high psychological distress over the past 12 months.
Are we overreacting?
With a generation that is much more open in sharing psychological turmoil, it seems to be creating an influx of poor mental health. The survey results showed that 83.2 per cent of students felt stressed over the last 12 months, 79 per cent felt anxious and 75.8 per cent reported a low mood.
Our emotional states will always fluctuate, however, and it is quite normal for anyone to experience all these feelings during an average week. Is our definition of mental illness becoming looser to the point of allowing a period of stress or depressive slump to define our emotional wellbeing? Of course these feelings should not be discounted and continue to be discussed and helped where necessary, but these feelings of stress or anxiety are a natural part of the human existence. Perhaps our expectations of happiness are too high.
Life stage challenges
Being a young adult is probably the life stage that involves the most changes, development and challenges. Uni students are moving out of home for the first time, trying to cope with financial independence and making decisions that will impact their future careers and the rest of their lives.
With the predictions of several career changes in our lifetimes and perhaps never owning a home, the future is morphing from what it looked like for our parents. Maybe it’s a coming of age crisis, but our rates of life satisfaction have definitely dropped. When in doubt just remember: it’s nice to be alive.
Grace studies Communications & Media at the University of Wollongong and is an avid fan of Harry Potter and coffee.