Millennials are often derided, criticized for their lifestyles, lack of responsibility and too much time spent on mobile devices. Yet, a 10-year study by Island Health and the University of Victoria of nearly 700 youth in the Greater Victoria area, shows a generation highly connected to family and their communities, often with higher education, but also struggling with work, housing, debt, stress and weight issues.
The first of its kind study, “Changes and Challenges: A Decade of Observations of the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults in British Columbia,” held recurring interviews with 662 randomly sampled young people from Greater Victoria, ages 12 to 18, between 2003-2013.
“Far from the carefree, party-oriented youth culture of the advertisements that target them, many youth in this study were found to be juggling education, work, lack of sleep, mental health and relationship problems,” says Richard Stanwick, co-author and chief medical officer of Island Health. “Hypertension and obesity are also threatening the long-term health of more than a third of these young people.”
Many of the youth pursued higher education with 45 per cent completing a university degree, 23 per cent obtaining a college diploma and 19 per cent becoming certified in a trade.
Balancing school with the need to support themselves through full- or part- time work, and with often much longer and more irregular hours than adults, was leading to stress and other health-related issues.
Murray Fyfe, second co-author and a medical health officer with Island Health, adds, “A public health approach with an emphasis on healthy public policies can have wide-reaching effects. This includes policies related to income, post-secondary education, affordable housing, transportation and access to healthy food.”
The study also notes the need for improved self-care through adequate sleep, physical activity, healthy eating and stress regulation.