Twenty-eight per cent of secondary school pupils have missed school due to anxiety, survey reveals

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17th April 2024 15:03 - Education

Twenty-eight per cent of secondary school pupils have missed school due to anxiety: A recent study by Stem 4 has found that nearly a third (28%) of UK secondary school pupils have missed school in the past year because of worrying and being anxious. Experts suggested they would have felt unable to cope if they went in.

Stem4, a youth mental health charity, conducted the survey using a representative sample of 1,025 young people aged between 12-21 years old. The findings suggest that poor mental wellbeing is a key reason for the surge in school absenteeism after Covid-19.

Further findings highlight that 48% of the representative sample aged between 12-18 said they were suffering with mental health distress and had anxiety, depression, an eating disorder or another diagnosable condition. Of that 48%, half had missed school because they were too anxious to attend.

Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) 12–18-year-olds say they’ve missed school days in the past year for reasons other than physical illness. The founder of Stem4, Dr Nihara Krause, stated that 24% of those avoiding school said they did so because of family difficulties. Eighteen per cent missed school due to bullying or friendship problems and others were absent due to exam stress. A fraction of students (15%) say they skipped school because they couldn’t be bothered.

Additionally, just over 4 in 10 (41%) said they’d rather avoid anxiety-provoking situations than learn how to tackle and overcome them. An extremely high proportion (84%) of the young people surveyed by Stem4 say that over the past 12 months, they’ve avoided situations that make them feel anxious and uncomfortable. These include public speaking, talking to people they don’t know and other social interactions.

Dr Krause said this about the findings: “These findings are very alarming as they show the far-reaching impact untreated anxiety and other mental health difficulties can have on a young person’s life. What can start as a few days off school can quickly spiral into persistent absence. Without specialist support, which is both expensive and time-consuming, some children and young people will have their education, and through this their life chances, significantly impacted”.

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