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Walking a well-being tightrope: young people in Australia

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The economic and social contribution young people make to society is increasingly important as the population ages. Yet a substantial number of young people face economic and social challenges that have an impact on their current and future well-being. Independent indicators are often used to describe what we know about how young people are faring, but these fail to show how young people are doing holistically, across their whole life. If we are to better understand and improve young people’s well-being and their lives more generally, it is critical that research establishes the connections and interactions between life domains. This paper uses a well-being framework and secondary analysis of national statistics to begin to understand how young people are faring when we cross economic outcomes with other social indicators. It argues that some Australian young people fare poorly across a large number of other social indicators and thus may be walking a tightrope in regard to their well-being and well-becoming. This paper also aims to generate a dialogue about using a well-being framework for future research with and about young people.

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  1. The proportion of young people recording medium or high levels of psychological distress is higher than for those reported above from the ABS Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007.


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This paper uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the author and should not be attributed to either FaHCSIA or the Melbourne Institute. The authors would also like to acknowledge the Australian Government Office for Youth (OfY), Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) who funded the State of Australia's Young People research project, on which this paper builds. The findings and views reported in this paper should not be attributed to OfY or DEEWR.

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Correspondence to Kristy Muir.

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Muir, K., Powell, A. Walking a well-being tightrope: young people in Australia. J Pop Research 29, 293–313 (2012).

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