We look at the five megatrends that will affect the state of mind and mental wellbeing of young Australian's over the next 20 years.

Group of adolescents taking picture of themselves.
Group of adolescents taking picture of themselves.

Big challenges ahead: How can we prepare our youth for an ever changing world?

Our state of mind and ability to cope with everyday events is what mental wellbeing is all about. The world is changing rapidly and the everyday events of 2015 look very different to the problems of 1995. Instead of looking after one virtual pet, a 13 year old now has to tend to a massive network of socially connected friends across multiple channels, 24/7; a far cry from having a Tamagotchi on your keys.

But what about the next 10 years, or the next 20 years? What trends will be impacting the next generation of Aussie kids?

We’ve just released the Bright Futures Megatrends report, commissioned by VicHealth, in it we’ve identified five megatrends that will impact the mental wellbeing of young people – those aged between 12 and 25 years.

The report paints a picture of the challenges facing young people into the future and raises questions about how Victoria can educate and prepare our youth to be resilient and adaptable in a world characterised by decreasing job security, increasing global reach and competition, greater diversity where identification of the mainstream is difficult, over-exposure to the internet and new health service delivery models.

Here are the five megatrends we identified in the report, that will impact the mental wellbeing of young Victorians over the coming 20 years:

  1. The rising bar: Rising skills and education levels in emerging economies (India and China), increased connectivity and automation, are leading to a more competitive global jobs market
  2. Global reach: Globalisation and digital technology are changing the way workplaces and individuals operate. The future may see a new breed of portfolio workers who have no fixed abode and sell their skills and knowledge to multiple employers.
  3. Life’s richer tapestry: A more diverse culture, society and consumer market where identification of mainstream is increasingly difficult. This includes aging population staying at work longer, increased growth in the Indigenous youth population and increase in number of non-traditional family structures.
  4. Overexposure online: increasing exposure to wide-ranging online content, privacy breaches and virtual relationships. Young people will have virtual resumes which are beyond their control to edit as there will be an increase in the amount of discoverable personal information.
  5. Out of the shadows: improved and widespread understanding of the causes of mental illness and building blocks for mental wellbeing, coupled with advances in medical technology and a changes in service delivery models will help some. However, poor mental health in indigenous and remote communities, and issues such as PTSD and family violence remain a major concern.

It’s clear from these emerging trends that the future health and prosperity of Victorians – and indeed all Australians – is dependent on providing opportunities to build young people’s resilience, social connection and mental wellbeing.

A number of studies show that between the years of 12 to 25 are a critical period of social and emotional development and a time when people face serious challenges that threaten lifelong mental wellbeing. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that around half of 15-17 year olds and two-thirds of 18-24 year olds have experienced a personal stressor related to mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, strategy and forecasting guru with our Data61 team, along with our e-Health specialists, are confident the report provides the vision to proactively create better outcomes for this at-risk group.

“The state of mind and mental wellbeing of young people is increasingly important in economic, social and personal terms and the risks of disengagement and isolation are apparent,” Dr Hajkowicz said.

“New stressors are emerging which as a society we need to understand and manage to ensure young people are able to maintain positive social connections and find positive life pathways that contribute to the community.”

Teenage male seated in cafe using laptop computer.
Teenage male seated in cafe using laptop computer.

Increased exposure to a wide-range of online content will impact the mental wellbeing of young people.

It’s no surprise that many of the stressors driving these megatrends are also impacting mental health and wellbeing of young Australians as they impact some of the most important aspects of becoming an adult. While the solutions to these issues lie beyond the direct control of any single organisation, this new report will help government, private and community mental health support agencies to build a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead.

So what’s next?

We need to work closely with organisations, like VicHealth (who have already begun to use these finding as part of their Mental Wellbeing Strategy 2015-2019 report), to understand, recognise and identify these long-term challenges and design and implement ways to assist coming generations to deal with them.

You can find out more about our work in e-Health over on our Digital Health page.