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Low-income teens struggle to cope during epidemic, poll finds

Save the Children Finland says the epidemic may further widen the gap between poor and middle class families.

Teini käyttää kännykkää.
Home is not always a safe haven for youths, according to results from a new survey by Save the Children Finland. Image: Marcino / Pixabay
Yle News

"Nerves are strained with almost the whole family home all of the time and arguments break out often."

"My biggest worries are at home and now I’m not able to spend the night at my friend’s house which is where I usually go when I need support."

This is how two teens responded to a survey by Save the Children Finland regarding their experiences of living under emergency measures.

The study found that the coronavirus crisis has dealt a blow to families that were already financially insecure before the epidemic hit. Half of teens from families where money was tight before the arrival of the epidemic said their parents’ finances had further weakened.

The Finnish branch of the international NGO found that worries about parents' ability to cope and family finances weighed heavily on some teens' minds.

"Distress and worry are clearly higher among teens growing up in poor families," said Aino Sarkia, a child poverty advisor at Save the Children Finland.

Nearly 40 percent of kids surveyed by Save the Children Finland said they were concerned about their parents' ability to manage during the crisis. Anxiety was heightened in low-income families, where that figure jumped to 60 percent.

Some young respondents also said their parents' stress levels were negatively affecting the atmosphere at home.

Poll results showed the epidemic had dented young people’s emotional wellbeing, with 27 percent reporting their emotional health as very poor or quite poor. Among low-income families this figure rose to 43 percent.

More than half of respondents, 55 percent, said they had experienced feeling lonelier than before the pandemic.

Missing school, missing meals

More than one-in-ten teens reported not eating a hot or nutritious lunch when schools closed from mid-March.

"What’s worrying about this is that we’re on the cusp of a long summer, so the same situation may continue in these families," Sarkia said.

She told Yle News that the survey results showed young people across the country are growing up under very different family circumstances.

"Is this epidemic going to further widen the gap between different groups?" she asked

Save the Children said the poll results indicate that the state and municipalities have work to do in securing basic social welfare for families with children.

"Finland has poor families and not enough has been done to help them," she said.

Save the Children's online survey was open from 6 to 26 April and drew responses from 3,129 teens between the ages of 13 and 17 across Finland.

Responses to questions regarding family income were based on youths' perceptions of family finances.

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