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Youth health and wellbeing survey - What-About-Me?

The Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey called What About Me? surveyed 7,209 young people years 9 to 13 in their schools during 2021. Another 502 youth of the same age completed surveys in their communities (eg at alternative education). What About Me? listens to our young people, capturing invaluable data and insights to inform decisions and policies to support youth wellbeing.

The survey findings identified areas of strength, resilience and challenges for young people in Aotearoa New Zealand:

  • Most young people feel loved and connected
  • Many young people have a strong sense of identity
  • Most young people have a stable home base
  • Young people aspire to achieve and contribute
  • Some young people were more likely to have experienced discrimination
  • Young women were less positive than young men about many aspects of their lives
  • Mental wellbeing overall for young people appears to be deteriorating
  • Young people at lower decile schools were more likely to worry about their whānau not being able to pay for essentials

These high-level survey themes and detailed key findings can be found in:

The complete data set will be available for policy analysts, researchers and academics, and will be stored in a data lab with Statistics New Zealand.

Further work is progressing for the later release reports on:

  • youth in community settings (eg alternative education)
  • Rangatahi Māori
  • Pacific young people

We captured the voices and experiences of many young people at an historical and unprecedented time.

  • COVID-19 caused significant delays to the survey.
  • COVID-19 has been hard and especially tough on young people, who lost valuable time at school and missed social events to help keep everyone safe.
  • Negative findings likely reflect the unique pandemic environment and global wellbeing trends showing declining mental health outcomes.
  • Young people took part so their views can be heard and we’ve taken every care to accurately report them.
  • MSD made sure the findings align with wider comparable surveys and our due diligence included technical peer review and an independent peer-review of findings.
  • Now the survey findings are available, MSD is leading work to release data tables in a minimum of two tranches allowing further exploration of the survey data in a publicly accessible, usable format that helps share insights.

Key findings

The survey findings identified areas of strength, resilience and challenges for young people in Aotearoa New Zealand:

  • Most young people feel loved and connected
  • Many young people have a strong sense of identity
  • Most young people have a stable home base
  • Young people aspire to achieve and contribute
  • Some young people were more likely to have experienced discrimination
  • Young women were less positive than young men about many aspects of their lives
  • Mental wellbeing overall for young people appears to be deteriorating
  • Young people at lower decile schools were more likely to worry about their whānau not being able to pay for essentials

These high-level survey themes are summarised below.

  • Detailed key findings from young people at school are in the overview report (PDF - 8.16 MB).
  • Most young people feel loved and connected
  • Many young people had strong friendships, felt safe and loved with their whānau and partners, and were connected to their culture.
  • The majority of young people were connected to their communities. Overall, two-thirds of young people were in a group, club, or team. Around half said they help others in their neighbourhood.
  • Many young people have a strong sense of identity
  • The YHWS asked young people whether they felt accepted for who they are in different parts of their life. Young people felt most accepted by their friends and those they lived with.
  • Rangatahi Māori, Pacific and Asian young people had stronger connections to their culture when compared to other ethnic groups. They were most likely to know their whakapapa, and rate as important the values of their ethnic groups, and maintaining their family traditions and cultural heritage. Pacific young people also had high level of pride in who they were.
  • Most young people have a stable home base
  • While most young people lived somewhere warm, dry, and free from mould, others lived in poorer-quality housing. One-third of young people (34 percent) said they or their family worried about paying for at least one essential item (kai/food, power/electricity, rent or mortgage, petrol or transport). Worry about these basic items was more of a burden for rangatahi Māori and Pacific and disabled young people.
  • Young people aspire to achieve and contribute
  • Nearly two-thirds of young people wanted to achieve a university degree. Smaller percentages of rangatahi Māori and Pacific young people aimed to achieve a university degree. Rangatahi Māori rated most aspects of their school life experiences lower than other young people.
  • Young people were positive about their workplaces, felt they were being treated well, paid fairly, and know their rights. They were less positive that their work provided them opportunities to develop skills and knowledge for their future.
  • Some young people were more likely to have experienced discrimination
  • Rangatahi Māori, and young people from Pacific, Asian and Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (MELAA) ethnic groups were more likely to have experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity. Rangatahi Māori were more likely than other ethnic groups to also experience discrimination because of their gender or sexual identity, or something else about them.
  • Disabled and rainbow young people felt less able to express their identity than other groups of young people. Rainbow young people gave the lowest ratings for feeling they belonged in their communities and were more likely to feel treated unfairly.
  • Young women were less positive than young men about many aspects of their lives
  • Young women gave lower ratings for measures of overall wellbeing and hope for their future and were more likely to have thought about or attempted suicide.
  • Mental wellbeing overall for young people appears to be deteriorating
  • A proportion of young people are experiencing poor mental health, and this appears to be higher than measured in previous surveys. Concerning indicators in this area include the WHO-5 and Kessler 6 metrics of mental health, as well as questions related to suicide and self-harm.
  • Young people at lower decile schools were more likely to worry about their whānau not being able to pay for essentials
  • Although the Equity Index is being implemented, the YHWS was taken while the decile system was in place. Analysis of survey results within the decile system showed differentiating outcomes. Young people at lower decile schools gave consistently lower ratings in measures of physical and mental health, experience of work and education, and higher ratings of exposure to harm.
  • A higher percentage of rangatahi Māori and Pacific young people attend lower decile schools. While they had greater strength in their connection to their values and whakapapa and felt accepted by their friends, they had negative outcomes across some YHWS results associated with economic wellbeing.
  • Regional results have been compared, to enable regions to consider how best to support the wellbeing of young people in their regions. The regions where outcomes for young people were less positive were regions where financial insecurity was most prevalent.
  • Although school decile and regions are not individual measures, the stark differences between disadvantages for young people highlight the need for more support for young people facing financial insecurity, to enable them to achieve their best lives.
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