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1 in 6 young Nigerians depressed – UNICEF

UNICEF

By Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja

At least 1 in 6 young Nigerians between the ages of 15 to 24 were depressed, worried or anxious, a new international survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed.

Gallup has revealed that the survey which was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, examined amongst others; young people’s opinions about their mental health, worldview, trust in institutions, importance of equality, climate change, and digital benefits and risks.

The poll, The Changing Childhood Project, is the first of its kind to ask multiple generations for their views on what it is like to be a child today. It surveyed more than 21,000 people in 21 countries, including Nigeria.

Nationally representative surveys were undertaken in countries across all regions; Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America and income levels, across two age cohorts 15 to 24 years old and 40 years old and above.

The Survey which was released on Wednesday ahead of World Children’s Day usually marked annually on 20th November, also revealed that Nigerian children and young people feel under the most pressure to succeed globally.

The survey partly reads “Data from the survey reveals that young people in Nigeria are facing a mental health challenge, with 1 in 6 young Nigerians aged 15 -24 saying they often feel depressed, have little interest in doing things, or are worried, nervous or anxious.

“As much as 85 per cent say they feel a greater pressure to succeed than their elders – the highest of all 21 countries surveyed, with young people in Lebanon a close second.

“Findings from the survey also show that young Nigerians are more concerned than young people in any other country surveyed about personal information being collected and shared online, at 72 per cent. The next highest are young people in Indonesia, at 63 per cent, and Kenya, at 54 per cent.

“Children and young people in Nigeria also show high levels of concern about the risks of meeting someone in person after meeting them online, at 84 per cent, slightly higher than children in the United States (81 per cent) and Brazil (82 per cent).

“In the area of finances, young Nigerians again showed a high level of concern, with 74 per cent of females and 66 percent of males worried they don’t have enough money for food.”

UNICEF Nigeria Representative Peter Hawkins, also noted that, “Children and young people in Nigeria clearly have a high level of concern about many and varied issues, compared to their peers in other countries,” .

“We cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope these concerns will go away. We need to take action. And the first step is to solicit their views, really listen closely and allow their concerns and ideas to influence our policy decisions.

“The future of Nigeria belongs to its children and young people – they have the right to be heard, have their needs addressed and their solutions explored. It is only through commitment to understanding and investing more in our children and young people’s presents and futures that we can maximize every child’s potential and ensure they have a full and happy life.”

The poll, which also shows a gender disparity in the views of young people in Nigeria, revealed that young Nigerians also agree that the minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls should be 25, expressing a desire for more time to enjoy their independence before adulthood.

Critically, Nigerians have one of the highest rates of young and older generations believing it is very important for politicians to listen to children’s voices when making decisions, at 87 per cent.

Hawkins added, “We cannot know what is on the minds of young people if we do not ask them. UNICEF’s survey reinforces the importance of hearing from the next generation and understanding their perspectives,” said Joe Daly, Senior Partner at Gallup. “The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow; it is crucial for older generations to do their part to ensure our children inherit a better world.”

“This is a clarion call from young people in Nigeria, a call to listen, to learn and to take action to lift Nigeria high. As we celebrate this World Children’s Day, it is critical we listen to young people directly about their well-being – both physical and mental – and their aspirations in this changing world.”

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