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Mental wellbeing


Adolescence is a key period for brain development, and negative experiences at this age can have lasting impacts. This indicator looks at the proportion of young people experiencing high levels of psychological distress.

Not only is the teenage brain and body undergoing massive hormonal and physical changes that significantly impact on emotion, young people are also often experiencing significant changes in their relationships, responsibilities and environment that can be a source of significant stress or anxiety.

When we spoke to teenagers and young adults as part of developing the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, many talked about their, or their friends', experiences of depression, feelings of insecurity, negativity, self-doubt, or significant and overwhelming feelings of anxiety about exams, uncertainty about their future and much more. This kind of psychological distress takes a toll on individual mental wellbeing and is a risk factor for mental illness.

Many of those same young people talked about these feelings being dismissed or trivialised by the adults around them. International research shows that approximately half of all mental disorders begin in adolescence, but many people don't get treatment until adulthood.

This indicator looks at the proportion of young people experiencing poor mental health using the Kessler Scale from the New Zealand Health Survey , which asks young people (aged 15-24 years) how frequently they have experienced symptoms such as nervousness and hopelessness in the past four weeks, which can give an indication of levels of general psychological distress. Similar questions will be covered in the Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey - 'WhatAboutMe?' targeting young people aged 12-18 years. 

Good mental wellbeing is more than the absence of psychological distress or mental illness. Good mental health and wellbeing is integral to positive emotionality, social interactions and resilience to inevitable life stressors.

This indicator relates to the 'happy and healthy' outcome.

How will we measure this?

  • This indicator will be measured from data from the Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey - 'WhatAboutMe?' as well as data from the New Zealand Health Survey.
  • Data from New Zealand Health Survey is updated annually in November.

  • Baseline data from the 'What about me?' survey is expected in 2021.

For more information

Last updated: 
Thursday, 23 July 2020