Factors Influencing the Wellbeing of Rural and Regional Young People

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will this year be held over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Dr Kristen Moeller-Saxone, Principal Program Officer at Vichealth who will present on ‘Factors Influencing the Wellbeing of Rural and Regional Young People’.


Long-term changes that affect societies, also known as megatrends, have been studied for their impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 12-25 years. Young people face challenges to their wellbeing from factors including the need for increasing qualifications to enter the job market, population growth and global markets, increasing ethnic and other types of diversity, impact of technology and online environments and access to mental health support. Most megatrend reporting focuses on national data usually drawn from urban samples, with little focus on the factors influencing young people living in rural and regional areas.

This study involved analysis of the megatrends data in relation to young people in rural and regional Victoria, and workshops and interviews with 55 young people and key stakeholders who work with young people. Key differences between urban and regional areas emerged for some trends. While internet connection is driving many new opportunities and risks for urban youth, twice as many rural households lack internet access compared to urban households. Rural youth are less likely to use the internet for social networking than their urban counterparts. Rural youth are more likely to engage in physical activity and be involved in sports. While ethnic and sexual diversity rates are lower in rural and regional areas, so are rates of racism. Some young people reported strong connections to rural communities that provided substantial benefits to sense of belonging and support; key factors in enhancing mental wellbeing. Issues with lack of transport, local education, employment and mental health support were described by young people. Recommendations for policy and program development across mental health, planning, transport and employment will be discussed.

Key Learnings:
1. Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of young people in rural and regional areas requires understanding how long-term societal changes impact them.
2. Policy and program changes are required to ensure that the needs of young people in rural and regional areas are met.
3. Incorporating the perspectives of young people enhances understanding of the data generated at the population level.


Kristen’s work at VicHealth focuses on projects aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Previously, she coordinated a major research program at the University of Melbourne and Orygen, The National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health, developing youth participation and improving mental health support systems for young people in out-of-home care. Kristen has over 15 years’ experience working with people experiencing mental health problems and addictions and completed her PhD in this area.

For more information on the 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium and to secure early bird discounted rates currently on offer please visit anzmh.asn.au/rrmh



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