Holidays hard for youth

ONE in three young Australians say Christmas makes them feel worried, depressed and lonely, a survey has revealed.

The poll of 12- to 25-year-olds, also found 16 per cent were dreading Christmas so much they would be relieved if it was cancelled.

The study - commissioned by youth national mental health foundation, headspace - have prompted calls for young people to be better supported during the summer holidays.

Feelings of isolation, boredom and conflict with family were listed as major worries for the 500 people who were surveyed.

Of the 88 per cent who said they had some negative thoughts about Christmas, two-thirds said they experienced tension with relatives.

One in three worried about not having friends around and being alone, while more than half had concerns about spending too much money.

The chief executive of headspace, Chris Tanti, said for young people most of their support came through their friendships and over Christmas they lost that structure, particularly those who were isolated in rural and regional areas and if they had an average relationship with their parents or the rest of their family.

''It's a very social period as well so if you struggle with anxiety in that context, then it makes it a very difficult time. For certain young people who are depressed, all of those feelings are heightened - the sense of alienation, the fact they can't even get into the spirit of being with their families and giving and receiving gifts and socialising. They're more likely to blame themselves and feel a lot worse because they can't just do what everyone else is able to do.''

The survey also found social media was an important tool in helping young people alleviate the stresses of the Christmas holidays.

More than half said they would use it to escape family tensions and loneliness, while 46 per cent said it would help them feel less depressed.

Jane Burns, head of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre - a not-for-profit exploring the role of technology in improving youth mental health - said social media played a vital role for young people during difficult times.

''Meaningful relationships are important for a sense of wellbeing and being able to connect through social media to other young people really does give that sense of purpose and connection,'' Dr Burns said. ''This is one of the most challenging times of the year for many people.''

This story Holidays hard for youth first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.