Kitchener-Waterloo

Most days 'extremely stressful' for young people in region, survey finds

More than 18 per cent of young people in Waterloo region who took part in a Youth Impact Survey find most days extremely stressful, while almost three in 10 reported feeling lonely on a regular basis.

3 in 10 youths reported feeling lonely on at least a regular basis

Grace Betele, left, and Neha Lalany are friends who say their lives look very different now than they did back in March before shutdowns due to COVID-19. (Photos provided/Grace Betele/Neha Lalany)

More than 18 per cent of young people in Waterloo region who took part in a Youth Impact Survey find most days extremely stressful, while almost three in 10, or 28.6 per cent, reported feeling lonely on a regular basis. 

According to the child and youth well-being data from the survey done by Children and Youth Planning Table (CYPT), 18.3 per cent of respondents reported finding most days "quite a bit or extremely stressful." 

This is higher than their peers across Canada, where 12.5 per cent of youth reported finding most days stressful.

The survey was done during the pandemic to get a sense of just what impact the COVID-19 restrictions had on young people in the community.

When asked if she was surprised by the findings of the survey, Neha Lalany, a 19-year-old student at University of Waterloo, said yes and no. 

"It's surprising because this pandemic has brought everyone more connected on social media through TikTok and Twitter and Instagram," Lalany told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition

"I feel like everyone has just become a lot more available on those platforms and [have] been posting a lot more, so I feel like in that sense we've been more connected. 

"But we've been less connected in the sense that we're not able to make as many new friends, we're not able to make new relationships at school or go study with our friends … so it's definitely become a lot more isolating in [that] sense."

(Children and Youth Planning Table (CYPT))

The survey, done in July, was open and piloted for young people, aged nine to 18 in Waterloo region to respond to questions across nine focus areas of well-being.

About 300 youth in Waterloo region took the survey, which focused on the following nine areas:

  • Belonging.
  • Mental, emotional and physical health.
  • Learning.
  • Participation.
  • The freedom to play.
  • Connection to the environment.
  • Feeling protected.
  • Feeling secure.
  • Being happy and respected.

Impacts of COVID-19

COVID-19 and social distancing safety precautions have had an impact on young people's experiences and opportunities to participate in play and leisure activities. 

The survey asked respondents to think about how COVID-19 and social distancing measures have impacted their free time and participation. About six in 10 of respondents reported that because of COVID-19 and social distancing, their participation had gone down a little or a lot. 

Alternatively, almost two in 10 or 19.6 per cent of respondents noted that their participation has gone up a little or a lot. 

Grace Betele, a 19-year-old student at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the COVID-19 safety precautions have changed her personality somewhat.

"I used to be very extroverted before — social butterfly is the little word my parents used to say — and I used to hang out with everybody and have fun," she told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition.

"[But] now I keep to myself and am more introverted and even when I do see people, I always want to go home."

(Children and Youth Planning Table (CYPT))

Among the respondents, 10.8 per cent reported experiences of homelessness and/or hidden homelessness. 

This is higher than youth across Canada, where 3.8 per cent of youth reported experiences of homelessness and/or hidden homelessness. 

With files from CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition

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